Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: DTM Media
This weekend's round of the DTM season takes place on our side of the pond: Brands Hatch sets the stage for rounds 11 & 12 of this year's championship. This year there are no less than three local heroes as Jamie Green (Audi), Jake Dennis and Paul Di Resta (Aston Martin) will appear at the starting grid, the latter already a three time winner at Brands. And of course there's also a local brand this time, as Aston Martin sets foot on home soil for the first time during their DTM participation.
Pole position fell prey to Marco Wittmann. The BMW-driver, currently third in the championship behind the Audi's of Rast and Müller, was 0.069s ahead of René Rast. Frenchman Loïc Duval took 3rd, just in front of the Aston Martin Vantage of Paul Di Resta. The experienced Scot, who won races in 2009 and '10 on the indy track and last year on the GP-layout, put in an amazing performance to snatch 4th: by far Aston's best grid position this season. Robin Frijns in the RS5 put in another solid qualifying lap to take 5th. Aston Martin showed good form at Brands, as its other local Jake Dennis put his car in p7, Championship runner-up Nico Müller was in 8th. Third Brit on the grid was Jamie Green in p13.
Where a wet race start was expected, it turned out to be dry enough to start the race on slicks. There was still a big threat of rain, and combined with the gusty wind weather conditions were tricky at least. Literally seconds before the start of the formation lap, drops were again falling on the lenses again. After the starting lights went off, the run towards Paddock Hill bend was won by Paul Di Resta! Coming from p4 he blasted his Aston right up to the lead. Wittmann held on to p2, Duval passed Rast for p3. Jake Dennis had a terrible start, got hit from side by Timo Glock, who in turn got a bump from the Aston Martin of Dani Juncadella. Dennis had to park his ride in the box with a broken rear wing, his team colleague Juncadella was penalized a while later with a drive through penalty.
In the opening stages of the race, Di Resta and Wittmann, who were only 0.2s apart, managed to create a small gap to Duval, Rast and Müller. Unfortunately for Di Resta he got penalized with a 5 second penalty for jumping the start.
With the threat of rain there were no really early pitstops this race, Green and Aberdein in their Audi's were the first after 10 minutes.
Fifteen minutes into the race a clear top-4 had formed: Paul Di Resta still controlled the pace in front, little under a second behind was Wittmann who had Duval and Rast on his tail. Rockenfeller, Müller and Frijns were each a second or two further back, Eng and Van Der Linde were clsoe together on p8 and p9, while Spengler completed the top-10. The race settled a bit and it was waiting for the first of the leaders to make their stop.
Müller was the first to take the bull by the horns and came in at the end of lap 12. He rejoined, remarkably, behind Jamie Green in p13. By now Rockenfeller made a successful jump towards the top-4 and made it a top-5. A couple of turns later, Rast managed to overtake Duval for p3. In lap 14 Wittmann mad his stop from p2. He came back on track right in front of Jamie Green in p11. Green, on his warmer tires, managed to overtake the M4 right after Druids. A lap later Rast and Duval made their stops as well. They rejoined right in the middle of Jamie Green and Marco Wittmann. As Paddock Hill bend doesn't allow four cars side by side, something had to give: sadly for the home crowd, that something turned out to be Jamie Green. He went wide and lost a couple of places, dropping him to p9.
Two laps later Paul Di Resta also made his stop. He first had to stop at the stewards for his 5 second penalty, and then could continue to his team to change his four Hankooks. The loss of time dropped him to p10.
With half an hour to go, only Frijns, Eng and Spengler still had to make their stop. They were the top-3. Wittmann however quickly overtook p3 from Spengler. In 5th, some 5 seconds behind Wittmann, was René Rast with Müller under his rear wing. A second or three further back were Duval and Rockenfeller.
Wittmann initially had a 20 second gap to Frijns in front, but closed that gap with some 2 or 3 seconds a lap. The Dutchman, clearly gambling on rain, was suffering from tire degradation more and more.
At the same time an interesting fight developed as Paul Di Resta had closed the gap to Jamie Green. The two Brits went at it for a lap or so, before Di Resta managed to overtake Green for p8.
By the end of lap 24, some 23 minutes to go, Frijns and Eng also made their stop. Frijns rejoined p8, giving p7 to Jamie Green and Eng came back 11th. Wittmann was now back in the lead with Rast at 5.5 seconds. Muller followed Rast at 4 seconds and had Duval and Rockenfeller another 5 seconds behind. The gap from there to Di Resta, Green and Frijns was over 10 seconds.
Frijns, on his newer tires managed to close the gap to Di Resta quickly, and passed the Aston Martin without further ado. He became the star of the final third of the race. The initial gap towards Rockenfeller and Duval was about 10 seconds, which took Frijns only 10 minutes to close. With the final 10 minutes on the clock, he reached the rear wing of the RS 5 of veteran Rockenfeller. After looking and peeking for a lap or 2, the blue Audi overtook the black one for p5. Next up was Loïc Duval, who fell victim to the urges of the Dutchman a lap later. With 6 minutes to go,
Philipp Eng had also caught up to the rear of Rockenfeller, trying to do the same trick as Frijns. He managed to pass the German quickly, but got stuck behind the Frenchman in the last two laps of the race.
Wittmann comfortably consolidated his lead in the remainder of the race, although he let Rast come really close in the end. Müller took 3rd and so the top 3 in the championship was also on the podium. Frijns took 4th, Duval 5th, Eng 6th and Rockenfeller 7th. Up until the final lap, Di Resta was in 8th, trying to fend of the BMW of Van der Linde, but he was struck by a technical issue that forced him to retire in the last lap. This way van der Linde took 8th, Aberdein 9th, and Juncadella 10th, giving 1 point to Aston Martin in it's home race.
Rast extended his lead in the championship to Müller to 27 points (178 vs. 151), but Wittmann is now only 5 points behind the 2nd Audi. Eng comes 4th at a respectable distance of 27 points.
Tomorrow is the second race at Brands, starting at 13.30 GMT.
Race results click here.
For championship standings click here.
Race highlights with English commentary click here.