Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: DTM Media
Rene Rast takes his second win of the season, which now consists of two race wins and two DNFs. He defeats the chasing BMW of Philipp Eng, yesterdays' race winner who leaves Zolder as the championship leader. Jamie Green defended the Union Jack with honour, claiming the final podium spot after a great strategy call.
South African rookie Sheldon van der Linde grabbed his first pole position in DTM in only his fourth race. René Rast seems to have a patent on the 2nd grid position in Zolder. He missed pole by a whisker yet again as he now fell 0.006s short of van der Linde's time. Yesterday's winner Philipp Eng put his BMW on p3, Frijns for Audi on p4. Jamie Green was best Brit on the grid again on p9, while Jake Dennis put the first R-Motorsport Aston on p13. Di Resta suffered an oil pressure issue in qualy, which also prevented him to take part in the race.
It was Philipp Eng who had the best start of the guys at the front, but Sheldon van der Linde managed to still beat him to the first corner. In his efforts to pass, Eng went wide at the second corner and lost a position to Rast and Timo Glock. Glock already passed Frijns at the start and was now up to third. A corner later Eng also had to give up a position to Frijns. Championship leader Wittmann was in 6th, ahead of Green and Rockenfeller, Eriksson and Duval.
R-Motorsport again took a gamble for a safety car and this time pulled in Dani Juncadella for a pitstop as early as lap 1.
On a track at which it is hard to overtake, Robin Frijns yet again displayed his remarkable overtaking skills: in lap 4 he managed to outbrake Timo Glock at the first corner to take p3. He now opened the hunt towards Rast and Van Der Linde who were some 3 seconds ahead.
In Lap 9, Philipp Eng was the first of the top 10 to make his stop. Two laps later, Van der Linde in front finally had to submit to Rasts' pressure: just as Frijns, the experienced German and former 24 hours of Le Mans winner overtook the rookie in turn 1. At the same moment, Frijns from p3 and Glock from p4 decided to make their stop. Frijns rejoined in 10th but immediately found Eng on his tail. Like we've seen many times before, as in DTM tire warmers are forbidden, the car with the warmer tires often has a huge advantage. And so Frijns was able to withstand Eng's attacks for half a lap, but finally had to give up 10th position to the Austrian.
Right then, Van der Linde and Green also decided to make their stops. Van der Linde almost suffered the same fate as Frijns did, but managed to hold his position for now. Rast made his stop as well and so we saw the 'virtual' top-5 back within a second, with Rast leading the pack on the coldest tires.
When their tires were up to temperature, it was clear that Rast and Van der Linde were a class apart in this race, being able to pull away from Eng, Frijns and Glock behind. The fiercest battle was between Eng and Frijns, the latter being under Eng's rear wing for several laps. Two seconds behind were Green, Eriksson and Müller battling it out for p6. In the meantime, Wittmann was leading the race, though he still had to make his stop.
After his stop in lap 15, Wittmann rejoined the track right behind Glock. He now chased his team colleague on tires that were 5 laps younger. Two cars in front, Frijns made a move on Eng in the hairpin, there was some slight touchy touchy, but Eng defended his position with success. Frijns move gave Glock, Wittmann and Green the opportunity to close the gap and so we now had five cars battling for the last podium spot, with Eng holding the best cards at the moment.
Meanwhile, von Habsburg had to park his Aston in the box with issues on the rear right, meaning again at least two DNFs for R-Motorsport.
Wittmann, on his newer tires managed to pass Glock at the chicane in lap 21. He now charged down towards the Audi of Frijns, a couple of tenths in front. A lap later, it all went down the drain for Dutchman: Wittmann peeked at the outside of turn 1, and tried to cross to the inside of Frijns. Not having enough room and braking too late, he instead drove into the rear of the defending blue Audi, ramming him off the track. Frijns was stuck in the grass, while Wittmann lost a position to Glock again. As Frijns was stuck half on the track, the safety car was quickly deployed.
Green, Müller and Spengler quickly took the opportunity to make a second stop, after Rasts success in earlier races with this strategy trying to cut through the field on new tires. Jake Dennis, who still led the race right before the incident not having made his stop yet, also changed his tires and found himself in p8 when he rejoined the track, Jamie Green right behind him.
At the restart, Rast was in the lead and consolidated his position. Van der Linde was 2nd, Eng 3rd, Glock 4th and Wittmann 5th, making it 4 M4's chasing down the leading RS 5. Eng managed to pass Van der Linde a corner later, now leading the BMW charge towards Rast. The BMW-chase had to continue with two instead of however, as Wittmann in his efforts drove into the back of Glock, making both go wide at turn 3 and taking Duval along with them.
This gave 4th place to Mike Rockenfeller, while Glock clinched on to p5, with now Jake Dennis, on fresh tires in 6th in the Aston Martin. Green was still on his rear wing. In the meantime, Wittmann got served a drive-through penalty which he immediately took, handing him the red lantern.
The moment Dani Juncadella became the third Aston pushed back into the pitbox in lap 29, it was Jake Dennis who managed to overtake the BMW of Timo Glock on the main straight. Jamie Green however became the laughing third, as he could overtake both fighting dogs to snatch p5 right under their nose. The orange Audi now in p5 on fresh tires with just over 10 minutes to go. Glock immediately countered and took back p6, Dennis now in 7th.
Green was the only one, not in the least helped by his smart strategy and new tires, who was able to close the gap in front towards Rockenfeller, Van der Linde and Eng who were fighting for p2. Rast was already 4 seconds away in front. With five minutes plus three laps to go, Rockenfeller let his clearly faster team colleague pass to lead the charge to the BMWs.
With two laps to go, Jake Dennis squeezed his Aston past the M4 of Timo Glock to take p6 in the chicane. Spengler profitted along with him and took p7. At the same time, Jamie Green made his next move on van de Linde, but still couldn't find a way past the Shell-liveried M4.
As the final lap began, Rast was still leading comfortably. He secured his second win of the season. But behind the tension rose to a climax: in the right-left-right combination at the back of the track, Jamie Green finally found a way past Sheldon Van Der Linde and took p3 with a daring move. He first looked on the outside, than quickly moved to the inside right at the moment Van der Linde moved back to the raceline, passing the South African on the inside. Rockenfeller followed and Van der Linde had to settle for p5. Jake Dennis put in a magnificent performance for Aston, being able to hold on to p6 under immense pressure from Spengler in the black M4. Müller, Fittipaldi and Eriksson completed the top-10.
Phillipp Eng now leads the championship for BMW with 59 points, Rast is 5-points behind with 54, Wittmann drops to 3rd with 43. Jamie Green jumps to p7, right after Robin Frijns. Paul Di Resta is still the best Aston driver in p13 with 11 points.
Next races are in the weekend of the 9th of June on the Italian track at Misano. Local Moto GP hero Andrea Dovizioso will climb behind the wheel of the Audi RS 5 guest car there.