Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: DTM Media
This weekend the DTM circus is guest at the oldest MotoGP track in the world. Not Zandvoort, but the "Cathedral of Speed" at Assen, is the location for the Dutch round of this years' DTM season. Ever year since 1949 the track in the eastern part of Holland has hosted a MotoGP race. The track is characterized by high kerbs and many high speed corners, 4 of which will be taken at 200+ km/h.
Marco Wittmann was fastest in qualifying, putting his BMW M4 ahead of three Audi RS5's: René Rast, championship leader by 25 points, Frenchman Loïc Duval and rookie Pietro Fittipaldi. P5 went to Timo Glock (BMW) ahead of championship runner-up Nico Müller for Audi. The BMW's of van der Linde, Spengler, Eng and Eriksson completed the top-10. The Brit's had a difficult qualifying: Jamie Green started the race from p12, Di Resta p15 and Jake Dennis p17. Best Aston Martin was of Dani Juncadella in p14.
The race started under safety car due to all but sunny conditions: wet track, heavy rain and gusty winds made it too dangerous for a standing start. Local hero Robin Frijns started from the back either by choice (to be able to set a rain setup ahead of the race) or because of some issues to his car. The wet conditions could also be somewhat beneficial to the Aston's who still struggle a bit with acceleration: being somewhat less important in soaken wet conditions. More so as this was the first wet-race, on an unknown track for the new turbo-charged DTM-formula.
After three laps behind the safety car with the countdown of 55 minutes already started, the race got underway with 46 minutes to go. Rast immediately put high pressure on Wittmann. First attempt of the Audi driver in the chicane at the back of the track was unsuccessful: Wittmann could counter a turn later. Only real victims of the chaos that is the opening lap were Sheldon van der Linde, who got pushed around by brand-colleague Bruno Spengler, and Dani Juncadella, who suffered a mechanical failure and had to park his car at the side of the track. This caused another short safety car to tow the Aston away, luckily it only lasted a lap after which racing resumed.
Some great fights broke out, most eye-catching the battle for 4th between Fittipaldi, Glock and Müller. After a couple of position changes, Fittipaldi managed to create a small gap to the other two, a moment later Glock lost control of his BMW and went to the gravel to break up the fight. Wittmann and Rast, separated by little over a second, had a small gap to Duval of a second or two.
8 laps into the race and the first cars, led by Jamie Green and Robin Frijns, came in for their mandatory pitstop. In that lap Nico Müller also managed to overtake Fittipaldi for p4 and started to charge towards Loïc Duval, some three seconds ahead of him. The young Swiss clearly felt like a fish in the water, as it took him only two laps to not only close the gap, but immediately passed Duval on the first opportunity he got. He now had an 8 second gap to Wittmann and Rast in front.
Loïc Duval was the first car out of the top 10 to pit in lap 12, coming out well in front of Rockenfeller who was leading the cars that already made their stop. The top-3 maintained some sort of a status quo: the gap between Wittmann and Rast settled at around 2 seconds, while Müller was kept some 8 seconds behind.
With 23 minutes to go, René Rast was first of the leaders to make his stop. He rejoined in p6 and first of the stopped cars, some ... seconds ahead of Loïc Duval. A lap later Marco Wittmann followed, handing the lead over to Nico Müller. Rast, with his rain tires already up to temperature, saw Wittmann rejoin some 5 seconds ahead. He managed to close the gap quickly and a lap later Rast was literally under the BMW's rear wing. He made another move, now on the outside, but again Wittmann could retake the lead a corner later.
With 15 minutes to go, Müller still lead the race some 10 seconds ahead of Eng and Glock. The top 3 were the only cars that didn't yet made their stop. Wittmann and Rast were 4th and 5th at 36 seconds, but due to their battle the gap towards Müller quickly grew. Would Müller be able to create a gap large enough to safely make his stop?
5 minutes later Glock and Eng had also made their stops and rejoined behind Wittmann and Rast. Müller, still putting in some blistering lap times, was now the only car still on old tires. The gap to Wittmann was now just over 42 seconds and the track was drying: a dryer line was already getting visible. Wittmann clearly had won the battle with Rast, who was now 2 seconds behind.
With 5 minutes to go, Müller decided to makes his stop. He rejoined still in p1, with some five seconds ahead of Wittmann but on stone-cold tires... The gap quickly closed and half a lap later Wittmann was on his tail. Three corners later he managed to provide himself with a better exit out of a slow turn and retook the lead. Müller didn't have time to mourn over the loss of the lead, as Rast was now right behind him. He clearly had more difficulty passing Müller, who now had his tires up to temperature. Wittmann was already some 3.5 seconds ahead which proved too much to close before the end of the race. On his newer tires, it was also not too hard for Müller to fend of Rast in the remaining laps, causing the race to bleed out a little in the end.
And so, Wittmann comfortably drove to his third victory of the season from Pole, ahead of Müller and Rast. The battle for p4 between the BMW's of Eng and Glock was decided in favor of the Austrian: after a small mistake of Glock with some 5 minutes to go, he wasn't able to retake p4 from Eng in the remainder of the race, despite a couple of tries. Jonathan Aberdein was the best rookie in p6, getting his best result of the season. Jamie Green, always strong in the rain, came in at p7, ahead of Duval, Rockenfeller and van der Linde.
Rast still leads the championship with 146 points, 24 more than Nico Müller who has 121. Eng maintained p3 with 111 points and Wittmann moved up to p4 with 100 points.
Tomorrow race 2 is held at 12.30 GMT.
For the championship standings click here.
Race highlights (ENG) click here.