Changeable Saturday at Brands Hatch

DTM was back at the British track Brands Hatch, where the German touring car series used the long Grand Prix version, instead of the Indy version, which the series has previously used.

Marco Wittmann had grabbed Pole Position, in a qualifying that started wet but slowly dried up. Rene Rast started in P2, ahead of Loic Duval, and the local surprise, Paul Di Resta. It was good to see BMW, Audi and R-Motorsports Aston Martin all in top four.

Pietro Fittipaldi unfortunately wasn’t able to participate today, since he went off track in qualifying and the car was too damaged to be used in the race. Actually, his Audi Sport Team WRT Jonathan Aberdein also went off track with some damage on the car, but the mechanics managed to get the car ready for the race.

Joel Eriksson couldn’t manage to start due to some problems with the gearbox in the qualifying, which the team didn’t have enough time to repair.

While the drivers waited for the race to get started, there were some rain showers in the air, but it wasn’t enough to start the race on rain tires. There were, however, also grey clouds on the way, so things could change in a matter of seconds.

Marco Wittmann
Photo: JJ Media

Paul Di Resta had a fantastic start and took the lead already before Turn 1, while Wittmann, Duval and Rast had to merge behind him. There was a commotion further down the field, where Jake Dennis, Timo Glock and Daniel Juncadella had a collision, that sent Dennis to the wall, and out of the race with a broken car. Juncadella got a Drive-through penalty for causing the incident.

The stewards began to investigate if Di Resta did a jump start, since fourth to first sounded a bit too good to be true. They came to a conclusion that he did, so the Scotsman got a five-second pitstop penalty for when he came in to change tires. The replay, however, showed that it was very very little, if he did a jump start at all. But the stewards’ words is law, and the penalty couldn’t be appealed or protested.

Jamie Green and Jonathan Aberdein were the first two to pit, already after six laps.

The race went wrong for Ferdinand Habsburg, who went off track at first, and then the team couldn’t lift the car using the built-in airjacks, instead they had to use the manual jacks to change the tires. It cost him over a minute before he was back on the track again.

Duval and Rast swapped positions on lap 14, while Wittmann pitted on the same lap, in case he had to defend against the Audis behind him. Meanwhile, Di Resta was still leading the race.

Jonathan Aberdein
Photo: JJ Media

Rast and Duval pitted on the same lap, where Duval’s pitstop was one and a half seconds faster than Rast’s, but it wasn’t enough to get past the teammate again. The two came out right in front of Green, who attempted to drive past them, but instead he ended up going too wide in Paddock Hill Bend, and fell back behind Rast again. Wittmann exploited the confusion and slipped past both Green and Rast, and thus was the actual leader of the race.

Müller also overtook Rast, who still hadn’t warmed up his tires and so it was a direct duel for the championship again.

The five-second pitstop penalty ended up very expensive for Di Resta, who fell back to actual P7. Such a shame for the Scot and R-Motorsport team, especially when you’ve seen worse jump starts in the past that weren’t penalised…

Rast fought past Müller again, while distancing themselves from Duval with a few seconds, so it looked like the Frenchman fell a big behind. Instead, Duval came under pressure by Mike Rockenfeller.

Paul Di Resta was on the way up the field again and put Jamie Green under hard pressure. He went past in Paddock Hill Bend, with a classic slipstream manoeuvre familiar with the corner.

Paul Di Resta
Photo: JJ Media

Robin Frijns and Philipp Eng were the last two to pit, with 23 minutes left on the clock.

There was more moisture in the air with twenty minutes left, but it wasn’t enough for the teams to change to rain tires. The 25 degree air temperature quickly made it evaporate from the track again.

Both Green and Habsburg chose to pit one extra time for fresh tires, with sixteen minutes left.

Eng took advantage of his newer tires and overtook Di Resta from the outside in Paddock Hill Bend, and then set his eyes on Frijns, a few seconds ahead.

Duval could keep Rockenfeller behind him so far with ten minutes left, but they had been joined by Frijns, making it a three-way Audi battle. Frijns came past Rocky a couple of laps later,  then it was Duval with the target on his back. One lap later, the blue Audi also drove past the red one, at the exact same spot, down the hill towards Hawthorn’s.

Eng also overtook both Rocky and Duval, in the very last minutes.

Paul Di Resta retired with two laps left due to technical problems.

But out in front, Marco Wittmann was completely untouchable, and won the race ahead of Rene Rast and Nico Müller. Daniel Juncadella was the best R-Motorsport Aston Martin in P10.

The second DTM race of the weekend will be run tomorrow, Sunday.

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