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DTM: Wittmann and Rast win season openers at Hockenheim

Updated: May 14, 2019

At long last, it was time for the start of the new DTM season at Hockenheim. It has been a winter of waiting to see how Aston Martin will perform as a newcomer, just as rookie Jake Dennis. And how will the new rule book, introducing the 4-cilinder turbo engines, affect the races?

The first race of the 2019 season would, just like the first qualifying session of the year, take place under wet conditions. Marco Wittmann for BMW secured the first pole of the year, followed by Mike Rockenfeller for Audi and Paul Di Resta, who put the Aston on p3 on the grid for its very first race. Rast and Frijns followed on p4 and 5, while debutant Jake Dennis put his Aston on p6. Behind him was another rookie, as Sheldon van der Linde put his BMW on p7.

The sprint to the first corner was won by Wittmann, though Rockenfeller came pretty close. Right behind, Rast tapped onto the back of Timo Glock who had a great start, pushing him into a spin. An action not punished by race control. Rast was really on a roll, as het passed Frijns and Rockenfeller in the next laps for p3 and p2. He then went on to close the 20-second gap towards leader Wittmann, only to be struck by a technical failure in lap 28... This gave the podium positions back to Mike Rockenfeller (p2) and Robin Frijns (p3) for Audi, who couldn't threaten race winner Wittmann. Wittmann led the race from start to finish.

By then, the curtain had fallen already for two of the four Aston Martins: Von Habsburg had to park his in the pits as early as lap 2, while Paul di Resta suffered the same fate in lap 17. Dani Juncadella did make it to the finish and scored the team's first race points with p9, while Jake Dennis put his machine on p11 at the line. Best rookie was Sheldon van der Linde, the South African claimed p6 in his BMW.

Opposite to Saturday, the second day of the weekend was completely dry. Philipp Eng, who didn't set a time in Q1 on Saturday, made a great comeback and secured Pole for race 2. Behind him were Saturday's race winner Wittmann and first Audi driver Frijns. Rast, who consistently been one of the fastest cars on Saturday, had to settle for p16 at the start of Sunday's race.

Both Wittmann and Frijns didn't have a great start of the race: it were Müller and Glock who took up the positions behind Eng after the first corner. Frijns even fell back to p8. The laps that followed went by pretty docile, up until lap 6 when Loïc Duval went into the gravel at the hairpin in the stadium-area and caused a Safety Car. Rast and Di Resta acted quickly and made a pitstop, an important decision as the rest of the race would point out.

After the indy-style restart, Rast and Di Resta managed to put in some blistering lap times and move quickly through the field. Although their tires weren't able to last the whole rest of the race, after 22 laps when everybody made his pitstop, the Audi and the Aston were leading the race in that order.

It became evident though that despite the smart strategy, the Aston Martin Vantage DTM at the moment is not yet measured up to the BMW's and Audis. In the remainder of the race, Di Resta had to let a couple of cars by and finished p7 in the end. Rast though, the serial winner and vice-champion of the 2018 season, managed to defend his lead comfortably, resulting in an almost 12 second gap to Nico Müller in p2 at the finish. In third was (again) Robin Frijns, making it a 1-2-3 finish for Audi. Pole sitter Philipp Eng was the best BMW in p4.

Marco Wittmann finished in p8, giving him just enough points to leave Hockenheim as the championship leader with 34 points, 3 more than Audi-pilot Robin Frijns. René Rast is 3rd, with 25 points.

The championship continues in the weekend of 17th-19th of May on the Belgian track of Zolder.


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