Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: DTM Media
With a pole position and race win on Sunday, resulting in the maximum of 28 scorable points, René Rast set a giant step towards his second DTM title after 2017. On a day completely dominated by Audi, locking out the first 8 (!) positions on the grid and the first four at the finish, Rast proved himself the strongest in a direct battle with his closest championship contender and fellow Audi-pilot Nico Müller.
As said, qualifying for race 2 was completely dominated by the brand with the for rings. Behind Rast it were Duval, Frijns, best Brit on the grid Jamie Green, Rockenfeller, championship runner-up Nico Müller and rookies Fittipaldi and Aberdein. Only then the first BMW was found, driven by Philipp Eng, after which Dani Juncadella completed the top-10 in his Aston Martin. Yesterday's winner Marco Wittmann had to commence the race from p12.
Just like yesterday, the pole sitter was not the first to reach Paddock Hill bend: it was Loïc Duval who beated René Rast in the sprint to the first corner. Green did the same to Robin Frijns, although he lost p3 to the Dutchman two corners later. Rast managed to overtake Duval again quickly on the back straight and so we were back as we started.
Nico Müller was the first to hussle the order a bit, as he quickly managed to overtake both Frijns and Duval to make it a head-to-head between the two championship leaders. A bit further back, Wittmann set out to recover from his bad grid position and was behind brand colleague Eng in p8 in three laps.
The race settled a bit, and it was waiting for the first pitstops of the race leaders. After some 10 minutes, in lap 9, Rast was leading Müller by little over a second. Another second behind was Duval with Frijns close behind. Rockenfeller followed at another second with Eng and Wittmann at 1.5s. The top-10 was completed by Aberdein, Juncadella and Sheldon van der Linde. Jamie Green had already consumed his mandatory stop, but a 5 second penalty for an incorrect grid position threw him back further than he wanted.
At the end of lap 9, Wittmann was the first to stop, trying to get further up the ranks with an undercut. He rejoined in 15th. Rast, Müller followed three laps later, and rejoined well ahead of Wittmann. Wittmann, on his warm tires (tire warmers are forbidden in DTM), managed to quickly close the gap to Müller, but didn't come further than 6 or 7 tenths.
Rockenfeller, from p3, made his stop a lap later and rejoined right in front Müller and Wittmann. Müller went by quickly, but Wittmann, in the M4, did not get pass that easily as Rockenfeller tried everything to prevent the number 3 in the championship to threathen the Audis up front. Müller could quickly create a gap between him and Rockenfeller of several seconds. To make matters worse for Wittmann, Frijns, who made his stop in lap 14 and rejoined right in front of Müller, also let the Swiss by quickly to act as another buffer towards the BMW. Duval did the same two laps later. Frijns, also managed to pass Duval a couple of corners later to (virtually) take up p3.
Eng, now in the lead with his BMW, decided to make his stop as late as lap 22. He rejoined at the back of the Duval-Rockenfeller-Wittmann-train in p7, but was on much newer Hankooks than his competition.
During a slow zone to recover the car of Joel Eriksson two laps later, Wittmann decided to go in attack mode and also get new tires, rejoining in 12th.
Now that everybody made his stop Rast led the race again, a second ahead of Nico Müller. Two seconds back were Frijns, Duval, Rockenfeller and Eng. The rest, led by Dani Juncadella, followed at 5 seconds and more. Marco Wittmann was still in p12, almost 20 seconds behind Phillip Eng with 18 minutes to go.
In the remainder of the race not much changed and so René Rast scored his fourth victory of the season. Only notable fact in the last part of the race was Eng overtaking Mike Rockenfeller for p5. The Audi's in front weren't taking a risk of eliminating each other in the tight and fast corners in the English hills, although Nico Müller and Robin Frijns came within 2 and 5 tenths of René Rast respectively at the finish. At the tail of the top 10, Wittmann was not able to get further up the order than 10th. And so. although the top 10 finished within 8 seconds of each other, the final of the race never got really exciting. With p8 and p9 for Juncadella and Dennis, Aston Martin could look back at a satisfying end of the weekend on their home soil.
René Rast extended his lead in the championship over Nico Müller to 37 points (206 over 169). Wittmann, after his pole position and race win on Saturday, was now even further back as when he started the weekend, scoring only 1 point on Sunday to make his total 147. Three weekends, six races and 168 points still to score this year, so anything can still happen.
Next race is in two weeks, the German Lausitzring hosts rounds 13 and 14 of the season from 23 to 25 August.
Full race results click here.
Championship standings click here.
Race highlights with English commentary here.