The DTM series had come to Norisring, which almost guarantees a turbulent race.
Nico Müller had secured Pole Position. But after that there was confusion. Philipp Eng had the second fastest time, but he got a three-grid penalty due to blocking another driver in qualifying. Loic Duval should’ve started third but the team broke the Parc Ferme rules after qualifying and hence he had to start second to last – right ahead of his Audi teammate Mike Rockenfeller who had the same fate after being qualified in P8.
Thus the final starting grid was Nico Müller, Bruno Spengler, championship leader Rene Rast, Joel Eriksson and Philipp Eng. Jamie Green who was back after his appendectomy would start from eighth position.
Sunshine from almost clear sky and thirty degrees air temperature would present challenges to the drivers and the cars.
The drama already started when the five lights went out and Rene Rast didn’t move at all. Luckily the other cars managed to avoid hitting him.
In the first corner there was a commotion between Sheldon van der Linde, Joel Eriksson, Jamie Green and Marco Wittmann. The three BMW drivers bumped doors with each other, but they could escape the first turn – but behind Green. The luck didn’t extend to further down the field, where Ferdinand Habsburg, Paul Di Resta and Pietro Fittipaldi had a contact with each other. Fittipaldi got the worst of it as he broke his right suspension and must park the car.
Joel Eriksson, Ferdinand Habsburg and Mike Rockenfeller pitted after the first lap, while Robin Frijns and Marco Wittmann waited one lap later. Daniel Juncadella, Rene Rast and Jake Dennis went in on the third lap.
Just as the three of them came out of the pit, the Safety Car was deployed on the track for Fittipaldi’s stranded car.
Rast was the first person on the track who had done the obligatory pitstop, and he restarted the race in P10.
The restart was wild, where three cars ran side by side through several corners. It went wrong in Turn 4 as Timo Glock got spun around by his teammate Sheldon van der Linde. Jonathan Aberdein hit the stranded Glock, which then cost a rear suspension on Glock’s BMW. But he could roll the car behind the tire wall so they could avoid another SC situation.
Rast and Frijns should have just stayed out of trouble and waited for the others to pit, since the short lap at Norisring meant that the drivers would lose a whole lap in a pitstop.
Sheldon van der Linde got a Drive-through penalty for the contact with Glock.
Green was very aggressive through the field and overtook Eng in a nice outbraking in Turn 1 for third place. Eng chose to pit one lap later and fell back to P14.
Frijns had to pit again when a plastic bag had blocked one of the air intakes to the brake cooling. The brakes got so hot at Norisring, that the drivers had a small water container so that they could spray water to the brakes in order to cool them off. So it was impossible to continue as the plastic bag blocked the cooling from the outside. He tried to drive another lap, but the brakes were still too hot and it wasn’t possible to continue.
Mike Rockenfeller had to pit after half an hour, when he no longer had traction in the engine. He said over the radio that he didn’t get any alarm, only that the engine didn’t have any more traction. A bad day for the 2013 DTM champion.
Müller pitted with 29 minutes left and handed over the lead to Rast, who was in front of Eriksson, Wittmann, Juncadella, Dennis and Habsburg, while Müller himself came out in P7.
Van der Linde suddenly slowed down on the track, with a car that already wasn’t a hundred percent after the earlier contact with Glock. However, the South African had to pit and retire.
Jake Dennis and Ferdinand Habsburg couldn’t keep the fast Audi drivers, Nico Müller and Loic Duval, behind them and had to give up the fifth and sixth positions. The next target for Müller was the leading R-Motorsport Aston Martin in shape of Juncadella in P4. Juncadella himself was close to Wittmann and tried to attack the double DTM champion.
Shortly afterwards, Spengler also went past Dennis and Habsburg, who both dropped down the field. It was almost easy for Eng to overtake them a couple of laps later.
Even though Rast had nobody close enough to threaten him, he still pushed and built up a lead of over half a minute to Eriksson in P2.
Müller wasn’t done with his overtakes. He drove past Juncadella down the straight on one lap, and braked himself past Wittmann one lap later. The Poleman was back on the podium, after what looked like a hopeless strategy when half the field had pitted already before the Safety Car on lap 3. But we could only state that Audi ran supreme in the high temperature.
After long minutes of battle, Juncadella finally got past Wittmann, who then also lost out to Duval and Spengler. Duval used the fast Audi car to pass Juncadella one lap later.
Müller had closed up the gap to Eriksson and put the Swede under pressure in the last minutes of the race.
On the very last lap, Müller dived past Eriksson from the inside on the last corner. But nobody could touch Rene Rast, who won with 35 seconds down to Nico Müller in second plaace and Joel Eriksson in third.
Daniel Juncadella drove the R-Motorsport Aston Martin home in P6.
Tomorrow the second race will be run at Norisring. Will Audi be as dominant as today? We shall wait and see.