Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: DTM Media, Audi Mediacenter
In a race under threat of rain that didn't fall in the end, with a spin for championship leader and yesterday's winner René Rast in lap 1, Bruno Spengler made his return to the top step of the podium after a two-year absence. He takes over Jamie Green's crown of Mr. Norisring, with now 5 victories at the iconic track to his name.
Yesterday's winner René Rast secured Pole position for the second race at the 1.4 mi track at Nüremberg. Mr. Norisring Jamie Green, with already 4 wins to his name, initially was on p2, but due to a red flag infringement (speeding) he was dropped 5 places by the stewards. Same fate was suffered by Mike Rockenfeller, his second qualifying penalty this weekend, and Jake Dennis. Nico Müller, who was on Pole yesterday, now moved up to the first row. Frenchman Loïc Duval was on p3, ahead of the first BMW M4 driven by Philipp Eng. Bruno Spengler started the race from 5th position on the grid, followed by Van Der Linde, Green and Wittmann. Best Aston Martin was Dani Juncadella in p13.
Under the slight threat of rain, the race got underway. Rast had a better start than yesterday, but Müller and Duval got of the line even better. In the resulting sandwich of three Audi's, the cars from Ingolstadt were so caught up in each other they forgot to pay attention to the superstart of Bruno Spengler. He was able to pass the three battling Audi's all at once through the inside of turn 1. Eng was able to pass Duval in the run up towards turn two, but drama happened just in front: Müller was still on the inside of Rast for turn 2 and for the latter it ended in tears. Müller touched the rear of Rast and forced him into a spin. Rast could continue but now was some 10 seconds behind the rest of the field.
As we've seen earlier in DTM races, a couple of drivers immediately made their mandatory pitstop: this time Duval, Eriksson, Jake Dennis, Fittipaldi and a bit further back René Rast decided to gamble on an early safety car. A big gamble as we saw yesterday, where it appeared that cars that pitted later had a huge tire advantage by the end of the race, and also considering the threat of rain...
Dennis and Fittipaldi came out right in front the top of the field, Rast rejoined only after being lapped by all the non-stoppers. The top-3 was in a fierce battle at that time, with Müller putting the pressure on Spengler, with Eng and Jamie Green under his rear wing. A moment later the fight was broken up by a drive-through penalty for Nico Müller, for pushing René Rast round in lap 1. After Müller had come in, Spengler, Eng and Green were now chased by Van Der Linde in p4 and Frijns, who had a good first phase of the race starting from 10th. Wittmann, Rockenfeller, Aberdein, Di Resta and Timo Glock completed the top-10.
In lap 9 Jamie Green, showing some great pace, made a successful move on Eng to take p2. A slight kiss on the rear bumper was not penalized by the stewards, but Green didn't risk a penalty and let Eng pass by again a lap later. Green now started to loose a bit of pace and a couple of laps later Frijns had caught up to his rear wing. After some minor resistance, Green was forced to give up p3 to the Dutchman. Green immediately decided to come in for fresh rubber, giving up p4 to rejoin in p13.
The next couple of minutes, the race settled a bit. Spengler was still in the lead with some 30 minutes to go, consolidating a 3 second gap to Eng and some 6 to Robin Frijns. Another 3 seconds back was Marco Wittmann, with Sheldon Van Der Linde a couple of seconds further down the road. At that moment, Spengler and Eng both came in to change tires, giving the lead to Robin Frijns. Spengler rejoined in p7, right in front of Jamie Green, who on his fresh tires had worked himself back up to p8, and first of the stoppers. Eng was now in p10, and fourth of the cars that already made their stop.
After all cars made their stop, Spengler was back in the lead with Jamie Green at 4 seconds. Duval, Eng and Frijns were 5 seconds further back, Rockenfeller and Wittmann followed 3 seconds behind them. Duval, who was clearly suffering from the fact he made his stop in lap 1, had to let Eng and Frijns pass by quickly. Rast in the meantime had made his way back to p11, right under the gearbox of Joel Eriksson in p10. After a short struggle, the championship leader was back in the top-10.
With just over 15 minutes to go, Frijns put the pressure on Philipp Eng. After a struggle that lasted a lap or two, he managed to overtake the BMW on the main straight to take p3. Next was brand-colleague Mike Rockenfeller who passed the Austrian a lap later on the outside of turn 2. Meanwhile, Rast passed the BMW of Timo Glock for p9, while Nico Müller also had the chance to catch up to Glock.
Every once in a while we could feel a couple of drops of rain, but it wouldn't stick. As the clock ran further down, Mike Rockenfeller made real work of chasing Robin Frijns ahead and taking the last podium spot. With some 6 minutes to go, he made his move in the run towards the last corner and passed the blue Audi on the inside. With the field too much separated at the end of the race, not much changed in the last phase of the race. The rain never fell and so Bruno Spengler scored his 16th DTM victory of his career, and his 5th at the Norisring. He surpassed Jamie Green as driver with the most victories at the "Monaco of DTM". Green finished p2 and took his first podium of the season, Rockenfeller came close in the end, but had to settle for p3. Frijns finished p4, ahead of Eng, Duval, Rast, Müller, Glock and Juncadella.
Rast still leads the championship with 127 points, 25 points ahead of Nico Müller and 26 to Phillip Eng. Spengler leaps to 4th with 76 points. Jamie Green is now 9th with 46 points. Best Aston Martin driver is now Dani Juncadella at p15, with a total of 11 points.
Full standings here.
Race highlights (ENG) here.