The third round of this season’s DTM was run on the Belgian Zolder, in nice 26 degrees air temperature. It was the first time since 2002 that the series were back to the track – and actually it was the place where the DTM series started in 1984. Since then DTM had visited Spa Francorchamps, but they primarily drove in the Netherlands, where the Zandvoort circuit was close by.
The weather for the race on Saturday was perfectly sunny, and championship leader Marco Wittmann used it to his advantage to claim Pole Position in front of Rene Rast, Bruno Spengler, Sheldon van der Linde and Robin Frijns. A good mix of BMW, Audi, BMW, BMW and Audi.
Mike Rockenfeller had to start the race from P18 due to technical problems with the car, which must be solved after the qualifying, and thus the team had to break the Parc Ferme rules. He would have started from P16 anyway, so it wasn’t a huge loss.
Wittmann hesitated a bit at the start, and it helped Spenger to take the start in front of Rast. Wittmann could, however, push past Rast again in Turn 2.
Paul Di Resta chose to pit already on the first lap, so he was done with the obligatory pitstop. Ferdinand Habsburg and Rockenfeller went in one lap later.
Frijns, Loic Duval and Pietro Fittipaldi got five-second pit andstop penalty for jump start.
Joel Eriksson and Jamie Green pitted on respectively lap 8 and 11, but they were out of the battle for podium spots at the moment.
Daniel Juncadella was forced to retire in the R-Motorsport Aston Martin after twenty minutes. Almost at the same time, Jake Dennis stalled in the pit entry – two Aston Martin cars retired within a minute. It deployed the Safety Car, in order to remove both cars.
It meant that Joel Eriksson, Philipp Eng, Nico Müller, Jamie Green, Loic Duval and Jonathan Aberdein suddenly had an advantage for already taking their pitstop, while top seven hadn’t.
The race got restarted with the cars side by side until the lights went out.
Van der Linde and Rast had a duel door to door throughout the first three corners, but it was the South African who came out in front before Turn 4.
Twenty laps into the race, Spengler, van der linde, Timo Glock, Frijns and Fittipaldi chose to take their pitstop. Hence it left only Wittmann and Rast in front, while Eng had gotten past Eriksson.
Wittmann and Rast pitted six laps later, and they rejoined out of top ten. Rast’s mechanics had problems when they tried to mount the right front tire, so it cost the 2017 champion more valuable time.
Duval and Aberdein had a contact, which hit Aberdein’s front end loose and the race director ordered him to pit and get it mounted again. However, the mechanics chose to push the car to the garage and that was the end of his race.
Rast also had to pit, since his car no longer drove like it should down the straights. A couple of bad minutes for the Audis.
Müller had closed the gap up to Eriksson, before the BMW driver opened a little hole again to the Audi. With three minutes left on the clock, the two drivers were near each other again and Müller would really like to get past the Swede.
Eriksson and Müller pushed each other hard on the last lap, and Eriksson did a little braking error through one of the chicanes, but he could keep the car ahead.
Philipp Eng didn’t just secure his first victory in DTM, but also a BMW 1-2 in front of Joel Eriksson and Nico Müller. Paul Di Resta was the best driver from R-Motorsport in the Aston Martin.
The drivers will already be in action again tomorrow, where there will be another qualifying prior to a 55-minute plus one lap race.