Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images by DTM Media.
BMW driver Philipp Eng managed to score his first DTM victory in Zolder on Saturday. In a race split up by a safety car phase, Eng drove his M4 steadily to the chequerede flag.
The race winners of race 1 and 2 at the season opener at Hockenheim put their cars on p1 and p2 on the grid: Wittmann place his BMW 0.042s ahead of Rast's Audi. The second row was completely Bavarian with Bruno Spengler and South African rookie Sheldon van der Linde in their M4's. Runner up in the championship Robin Frijns was in p5. First Brit on the grid was Jamie Green for Audi in p10, while Jake Dennis put the first Aston Martin on p13.
When the red lights dimmed, it was Bruno Spengler who was most awake. The Canadian catapulted to the lead squeezing himself in between Rast and Wittmann. Wittmann first dropped to p3 behind Rast, but quickly countered to take back p2, while Frijns dropped to p7. Eng, who started 7th, was already up to 5th, profiting from an inside line in the second corner.
Frijns was quickly served a 5 second penalty for a jump start, questionable to say the least, as it was not perceivable by the naked eye. Fittipaldi and Duval were penalized shortly after for the same offense. The race by then already saw three pitstops. Di Resta and von Habsburg pitted for Aston in L1 and L3, and Rockenfeller also took a gamble, bringing in his RS 5 for fresh rubber in L3.
The race continued, waiting a bit to unfold, as Eng and Müller from the lead group pitted in L12. Eriksson and Jamie Green had pitted shortly before. Right after, in lap 13, it was Dani Juncadella who had to park his Aston Martin on the outside of Turn 11 with throttle issues. Only a couple of turns later, Jake Dennis in yet another Aston had to stop on track as well, now with seemingly electrical issues, causing a safety car. This made all the drivers that just pitted potential winners.
Eriksson led the group that already pitted, Eng and Müller were right behind. The seven cars in front, Spengler, Wittman, Rast, Van der Linde, Frijns, Glock and Fittipaldi, still had to come in for new rubber. Di Resta made a second stop, for new rubber yet again, and managed to catch up to the end of the field right before the restart.
At the restart, Eng immediately took matters into his own hands and passed Eriksson for p8. Van der Linde did the same and passed the Audi of René Rast for p3, making it now 3 M4s at the head of the field. Jamie Green in the meantime fought a fierce battle with Audi colleague Müller for p9, possibly a podium finish after all the leaders would've pitted.
Four laps later in lap 22, with some 20 minutes to go , Wittmann and Rast were the only two cars that still had to pit. Rast, having lost speed a couple of times during the race, now lost a position to Philipp Eng. Wittmann was still the leader, followed by Eng, Eriksson, Mueller and Jamie Green in p5. Then it was a small gap to Rast who lost a couple op positions yet again due to a sudden loss of speed, Aberdein, Rockenfeller and Di Resta completed the top 10.
In lap 25, Wittmann finally pitted, rejoining in p13. Rast followed in the same lap, and came back at p15, both driving a seemingly lost race. This gave the lead now officially to Philipp Eng, with Eriksson, Müller and Green right behind. The gap between Green and Duval in p5 was now 8 seconds.
Lap 28 finally meant end of the race for Rast due to engine power loss: he parked his car in the pitbox. Fellow late stopper Wittmann had a better last part of the race, as he recovered back to p7 to still score some valuable championship points (and actually staying in the lead only just).
Phillipp Eng calmly drove his first victory in DTM home in the final laps. Müller came really close to the back of Joel Eriksson in the last couple of laps, but the young Swede held on to p2 til the finish. Duval and Rockenfeller managed to get past Jamie Green in the last stage of the race and took p4 and p5. Paul Di Resta and Ferdinand von Habsburg claimed p8 and p9; another double points finish for R Motorsport.
Wittmann still leads the championship at 43 points, with a 3-point advantage over Philipp Eng. Müller climbs up to 3rd with 37 points, Frijns is 4th with 31. Paul Di Resta already brought in 11 points for Aston Martin, putting him on p11 in the standings.
Next race is Sunday, 12.30 GMT.