After starting from seventh, Philipp Eng took advantage of an unexpected situation to claim his first DTM win. Bad luck for the top three after the field became jumbled behind the safety car, called for a stricken Aston Martin.
The race started calm, without major incidents. BMW’s Bruno Spengler, who started from third place, had a sensational start and passed both Marco Wittmann and Rene Rast. He couldn’t quite get a big gap but was able to keep the lead.
Paul di Resta, Mike Rockenfeller and Ferdinand Habsburg surprised us as they made early pitstops in the first and second lap of the race. A bold move you might say, but eventually, it paid off. A few penalties were handed out to Robin Frijns, Pietro Fittipaldi and Loic Duval for making a jump start – the result was a 5-second pitstop penalty.
More pitstops were made from lap eight to twelve – Joel Eriksson first and Philipp Eng, Nico Mueller and Loic Duval followed. A decision that seemed to be the most important one in the end. One lap later the chaos for Aston Martin started. First, Daniel Juncadella slowed and parked his car outside the track on the grass. Moments later, after noticing that this might be the best moment to make a stop, Jake Dennis decided to come into the pits. Though he didn’t quite make it as he stopped on the pit-entry, bringing out the safety car. Bad news for the leaders who hadn’t yet made their mandatory pitstop.
In a comparable move to di Resta and Rast in Hockenheim two weeks ago, Rockenfeller and di Resta made their second stop of the race during the safety car period. Four laps later, when the race resumed, the leader of the race pitted together with other drivers in the front. They rejoined the track at the back of the grid. By lap 23, only Wittmann and Rast hadn’t pitted. The tyre degradation on this track is very high, a fact noticed quickly by Rast who began to struggle and drop back. Just eleven laps from the end he retired with technical problems.
At this point, Eng had a comfortable lead over Eriksson and Mueller – who were battling each other until the chequered flag. In the end, Eng crossed the line 8.6 seconds ahead of his BMW teammate. This was his first ever victory in the series – plus an extra celebration as his team, RBM, is Belgium-based. Emotional as he crossed the line, he screamed over the radio to the team. In the press conference he said:
“I want to dedicate this victory to Charly Lamm, who is a good friend. He was a very special mentor for me on my way to DTM. I once asked him the question: ‘have you ever imagined me driving a DTM car?’ And then he said, of course. You should try and chase that dream. And here I am. So, thank you Charly. I could feel you were with me today.”
Fourth place today is for Loic Duval, who was a bit in trouble in the end as he was fighting with WRT’s Jonathan Aberdein. The South African damaged his car in the door-to-door contact with Duval and had to retire. Fifth place is for Rockenfeller, Duval’s teammate at Audi team Phoenix. A positive outcome after starting from the very back of the grid. Pole-man Wittmann had to settle for seventh place.
After his successful strategy, di Resta finished in eighth place with Aston Martin teammate and rookie Ferdinand Habsburg taking his first ever DTM points in ninth position after starting from the last row on the grid. Spengler, van der Linde and Frijns were unlucky finishing tenth, eleventh and twelfth.
Tomorrow we have a brand new day with qualifying and race two. Qualifying will start at 10:25 local time (09:25 UK time) and the race will start at 13:30 local time (12:30 UK time).