Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: DTM Media.
This weekend DTM makes the trip to the Adriatic coast of Italy for round 3 of the championship. At the scene of last year's first night race in DTM, races 5 and 6 of the season are held at the track of Misano, named after Marco Simoncelli.
René Rast secured his first pole of the season with a 1.25.294. The next three grid positions were also taken by Audi drivers: rookie Aberdein 2nd at only 0.068s, Duval in 3rd and Frijns in 4th. Sheldon van der Linde was the best BMW driver in p5, Jake Dennis was the first of the Astons in p13. Guest driver and MotoGP star Andrea Dovizioso managed to place his Audi in p15. Championship leader Philip Eng didn't come further than place 7 on the grid, while team-colleague Marco Wittmann, 3rd in the championship had to start all the way from the back. Pietro Fittipaldi, who makes his debut for Audi replacing Jamie Green who had his appendix removed, qualified in p11.
When the lights went out and the race got underway, the clean side of the grid housing the odd grid positions rocketed of their place: Rast, Duval and Spengler were 1st, 2nd and 3rd after the first combination of turns. Those on the even grid positions, Aberdein and Frijns had more trouble getting underway: the South African dropped back to p4, Frijns lost even a place more and found himself back in p7 after lap 1.
Wittmann, decided to make an early pitstop in L1, followed by the Aston of von Habsburg. This could prove valuable early on, as Joel Eriksson was forced to park his car at a position were it was hard to remove, causing the first safety car of the race. Wittmann and von Habsburg were now at the back of the field, but the only ones who, potentially, were able to finish the race without the obligation to make another pitstop.
At the restart in L7, Rast and Duval managed to stay out in front, but Sheldon van der Linde overtook team-colleague Spengler for p3. Frijns was sharp as well and was able to pass Rockenfeller for p6, closely followed by Nico Müller. A couple of turns later, Spengler countered and retook p3 from van der Linde. Dani Juncadella and Jake Dennis entered the top-10 on p9 and p10.
A couple of fights broke out shortly after the restart, of which the most interesting was the one between Aberdein in p5 and Frijns and Müller right behind. After a couple of peeks, it was Frijns who managed to steal p5 from Aberdein, quickly followed by Müller. By now in lap 12, Rast built a 1 second gap to Duval, who in turn had some 2 seconds to Spengler. Wittmann in the meantime, who already made his stop, was already on p10, not more than 12 secs behind race leader Rast.
At the end of lap 12, Van der Linde was the first from the top 5 to pit. He gave up p4 to Robin Frijns and rejoined in p14, right in front of von Habsburg. Wittmann was already in p7, knowing that everyone in front still had to make his stop. A lap later Aberdein came in, followed another lap later by Nico Müller and Mike Rockenfeller. Wittmann now in p5...
In lap 16, Rast, Spengler and Frijns, the numbers 1, 3 and 4 in the race pitted simultaneously. Where three came in, only two came out... Due to a sensor failure, Frijns was unable to leave the pits after he stopped: end of race for him. The next lap, the last of the leaders, Loïc Duval, also made his obligatory stop, followed by the other late stoppers: Dovizioso, debutant Pietro Fittipaldi and the Aston Martin of Paul Di Resta. Jake Dennis was the last car that had to stop in p2, he followed a lap later.
Now that everyone made his stop, classification was as follows: Wittmann led in his M4 by over 13 seconds to fellow lap 1 stopper von Habsburg in the Aston, and a whopping 30.6s to the Audi of René Rast. Rast was closely followed by Van der Linde's BMW and Duval in the RS 5, some two seconds later followed Spengler in another BMW. Het had a gap of some 4 seconds to Müller, Eng and Rockenfeller, after which Aberdein completed the top 10 some 5 seconds later.
Although Wittmann and von Habsburg were defending some comfortable leads, the question was if the could defend this lead in the remaining 25 minutes plus three laps on tires that were some 15 to 20 laps older than their chasers. In 25 minutes some 16 laps could be completed, plus 3 extra due to the safety car, meant Rast had to close over a second per lap to come to the rear wing of Wittmann. The question was not if he could make up time, but how much... And would Wittmann be able to make it at all to the end with his tires?
It took Rast less than 15 minutes to drive up to the rear of the Aston of von Habsburg and pass him quickly. Duval and Spengler, who both passed Van der Linde in the laps before, followed quickly. Rast now had 12 minutes and three laps left to catch up with Wittmann, who was still 23 seconds ahead. Chances were growing by the minute Wittmann would win the race.
Some ten minutes later, in which the most notable facts were the fall of von Habsburg to p10 and Rockenfeller passing championship leader Eng for p8, the clock hit 0. It was clear that if the tires of Wittmann would hold, he would win the race. The gap to Rast was still some 16 seconds with only three laps to go, meaning a mission impossible for Rast. Wittmann succeeded in bringing the car home and so won the race from starting in the pits. Rast closed the gap to a mere 8 seconds, followed by Loïc Duval at another 10 seconds, then Spengler, Müller and Rockenfeller. Eng, Aberdein, van der Linde and Timo Glock completed the top 10.
With his 2nd place, René Rast takes the lead in the championship with 75 points, followed by Wittmann with 68. Eng is now 3rd with 65. Next race is tomorrow at 12.30 GMT.
Race highlights in English here.
Championship standings in English here.