Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: DTM Media
It took him a couple of tries, but René Rast finally managed to score his first points at the Norisring. What better way is there than to do that with a win? Helped by an early safety car and an astonishing race pace, the German secured the win ahead of team colleague Müller. Youngster Joel Eriksson claimed the last spot on the podium for BMW.
In qualifying, Nico Müller scored his first pole of the year. Gaps between lap times are very small at the 1.4 mi. Norisring, so at 0.075s followed the first BMW of Philipp Eng on p2. Eng was later punished with a 5-place grid penalty for blocking during qualifying. Duval was initially third, but due to a parc fermé violation (removal of the bonnet) he was taken out of the qualifying results. Same went for Mike Rockenfeller, both Phoenix Audi's had to start the race from the back. This made Bruno Spengler in his matte black BMW move up to second, and championship leader Rast to p3. Eng was still in p4. Mr. Norisring, Jamie Green, only just recovered from his appendix removal which made him miss the Misano round, qualified his RS 5 at p10, best Aston Martin was Dani Juncadella at p13. The whole field, 18 cars, was within 0.939s of each other.
Drama at the start for René Rast, as his engine stalled, forcing him to restart and come of the line very slowly. The Audi-star saw the whole field pass by as he got his car up to speed, putting him in last position in the run up to the first hairpin. Nico Müller in the meantime had a great start and immediately opened up a small gap to the BMW's of Spengler and Eng behind. In fourth was already Jamie Green who also had a great start, despite being touched by Sheldon van der Linde in the first hairpin. Frijns was 5th, coming from p9. The struggles in the first hairpin only made one victim: Pietro Fittipaldi was hit on his right front suspension and had to retire.
At the end of the first lap, Eriksson (BMW), von Habsburg (Aston Martin) and Mike Rockenfeller decided to immediately consume their mandatory pitstop, gambling on an early safety car; not strange with the guardrails so close in DTM's "Monaco". A lap later, Frijns and Wittmann followed, Rast, Juncadella and Dennis made their stop in the following lap.
All that time, Pietro Fittipaldi's Audi had been at the inside of the exit of turn 1, not being able to move anymore. At the beginning of lap 4, race control had no other choice than to call out the safety car. As the field had to slow down immediately, this was in the advantage of Rast, Juncadella and Dennis, who were now able to rejoin in (virtually) p1, p2 and p4 respectively. Frijns was the one who managed to squeeze his car in between on p3. Their real positions were 10th to 14th, but the top 9 still had to make their stop. Nico Müller led the pack in front of Spengler, Eng and Jamie Green.
The indy-style restart went flawless as the whole field squeezed itself through the first hairpin. Over the course of three corners, Philipp Eng managed to take p2 from fellow-BMW driver Spengler. Glock had been very well awake right behind to two dark BMW's and seemed the next one to overtake Spengler, up until Sheldon van der Linde pushed him round in the second hairpin. Jonathan Aberdein had no place to go and drove into the side of Glock, who stopped in a 90-degree angle right on the racing line. Aberdein could drive away from the incident, race ruined, Glock parked his car behind the tire barrier.
Duval, Van der Linde and Di Resta were the next to make their stop, moving Rast and Co. up to p5. Müller, Eng, Spengler and Green were the only ones left who didn't yet make a stop. Rast in p5 didn't plan behind Jamie Green long, but the battle for 2nd turned in to a proper fight. After several manoeuvres and position changes in the laps that followed, the battle was broken up by Eng, who was the first of the group to make his stop. After trying for three laps, Green was no longer able to keep Rast, on his fresher tires, behind him and had to give up p3. Two laps later, Green made his stop and rejoined in p13. At the same time Frijns was in for his second stop, with a plastic bag stuck in his brake duct. A lap later he was in again, this time indefinitely.
After 31 laps, Müller and Spengler had also both made their stops. Müller was now 7th, Spengler 10th but on 30 laps fresher tires than the rest. Rast was now in the lead (from dead last right after the start) with already a 12 second gap to Eriksson in p2, Wittmann in p3 and Dani Juncadella for Aston Martin in p4. Dennis and von Habsburg were his buffer in p5 and p6. The rest of the race was now a 25-minute sprint to the finish. Juncadella had an 8 second gap to Dennis and von Habsburg, who quickly had Müller under the rear wing.
It took Müller only a couple of minutes to overtake the Astons of von Habsburg and Dennis and now had to close the gap to Juncadella. Duval followed not far behind Müller. With 12 minutes to go, the Swiss Audi driver had caught up to Juncadella. Clearly the faster car, he didn't have much trouble passing the grey Spaniard. His next victim was set to be Marco Wittmann in the white-green M4. Two laps later he'd done the job and was now in p3. A fierce battle between Juncadella and Wittmann now emerged, with Loïc Duval appearing in the background. With 2 minutes to go the fight reached its climax. First, Juncadella managed to finally overtake Wittmann for p4, causing cheers from the mechanics in the R-Motorsport pits. A turn later, Wittmann lost another position to Loïc Duval, who'd quickly closed the gap the laps before. 3o seconds later, the Frenchman also managed to pass the Aston Martin of Juncadella, laying claims to p4 now.
In the meantime, Nico Müller had also caught up to Joel Eriksson, proving the late-stoppers Müller and Duval now had a clear advantage with their fresher tires. With time run out and three laps to go, Müller made his first move on the young Swede on the outside of the first hairpin. With the help of some slight door banging, Eriksson successfully defended his position for now. It took Müller the remaining laps to get back up to the rear wing of Eriksson, but he made it just in time: in the very last hairpin he placed a daring move from quite a distance, but his fresher tires gave him the opportunity to outbreak the M4 and snatch p2 right from under Erikssons nose. Rast had already finished and took the victory. Duval secured p4 and in the dying seconds Spengler managed to overtake Juncadella's Aston Martin for p5. In p7 was Philipp Eng, Wittmann, Dennis and von Habsburg completed the top-10.
Rast now has a firmer grip on the championship-lead with 118 points, Müller is now the runner up with 97, Eng 3rd with 91.
Tomorrow 12.30 GMT is race 2 at the Norisring, with a slight possibility of rain...
For race highlights (English) click here.
Full standings click here.