DTM: A weekend of highs and lows for the championship contenders during the series’ first visit to Assen

Feature Image Credit: DTM Media

Last weekend, races nine and ten of the calendar were held at the TT Circuit in Assen, the Netherlands. For the very first time in the history of DTM, the series raced at this 4.542 km long track which is known for its MotoGP races. Find out what happened at the ‘Cathedral of Speed’.

A new beast to tame this weekend, Assen’s TT circuit is new to the series and drivers. Some may have driven here before in different series, others have no experience at all. But of course, teams have prepared themselves well in their simulators. The circuit is also called ‘Cathedral of Speed’, thanks to it being a fast, flat track with very quick corners – four of them being over 200 km/h. That’s quite exciting with cars of 610 hp.

Image Credit: DTM Facebook Page

Audi was the dominant manufacturer on Friday. Loic Duval finished first practice on top, followed by a pair of fellow Audi drivers. Though, in the second session, it was local hero Robin Frijns who topped the timesheets. His best time was a 1m26.277s, which was also the fastest of the day. The fastest BMW appeared in sixth position – Timo Glock. Joel Eriksson and Sheldon van der Linde followed him in seventh and eighth.

During Saturday’s qualifying, Marco Wittmann took his 13th career pole – his third of the 2019 season. ‘Overnight, we made some considerable changes to the car’, the German said after qualifying. One of his main rivals, Rene Rast, would start next to him on the first row of Saturday’s grid. He finished 0.158s behind Wittmann. Duval and Pietro Fittipaldi found themselves on the second row with Fittipaldi being the best rookie. Robin Frijns was less lucky. He qualified P12, but due to an oil leak, mechanics had to fix the issue and therefore the Dutchman had to start from the back of the grid.

Thanks to the day’s wet conditions, the race started behind the safety car. When the race really started – three laps later – the battle was on between Wittmann and Rast. While battling for the lead, Aston Martin driver Daniel Juncadella stopped at the side of the track bringing the safety car back onto the circuit. Wittmann then had a great restart and created a bit of a gap to Rast. After the mandatory pitstops were absolved, Wittmann was still leading. Surprise of the day was Nico Mueller – who is one of the championship contenders. He eventually finished second, ahead of Audi teammate Rast. Philipp Eng and Timo Glock finished fourth and fifth. A nightmare day for local hero Frijns. After starting from the back of the grid, he fought his way back to the top ten. Though, a little later he spun and damaged the rear of the car which led to his unfortunate retirement.

Rast started off his Sunday well by securing pole position. His best time – a 1m24.849s – was also the fastest time of the weekend. Joining him on the first row of the grid was WRT’s rookie Jonathan Aberdein – the gap between the pair was only 0.132s. They’re followed by another trio of Audi drivers – Mike Rockenfeller, Mueller and Frijns. Best placed BMW was Sheldon van der Linde in sixth. Meanwhile, yesterday’s race winner Wittmann suffered turbo-charger issues. He was unable to set a flying lap, which meant he had to start from the very back of the grid.

Image Credit: Audi Media Center

Unlike Saturday, on Sunday conditions were dry and sunny. After starting from third on the grid, Rockenfeller won the race. In a spectacular way. As expected, the tyre degradation was very high on this circuit thanks to the fast corners and high kerbs. Many drivers struggled to manage their tyres after the mandatory pitstops, meaning they had to pit twice. Rockenfeller though pitted quite late compared to the others. He managed his tyres perfectly and after some hard but fair battles with Wittmann, took the victory – his first in almost two years. “I’m absolutely over the moon!”, he said after the race. “When the gap to the drivers behind me increased, I paid attention to every noise in the car. Therefore, I was happy when I saw the chequered flag.”

Wittmann and Mueller finished on the podium again, in second and third place. A positive weekend for the Swiss Audi driver, who won the second race at Misano. Wittmann stormed through the field after having to start from the back of the grid. Halfway the race, Rast was leading, but like others, he started to struggle with his tyres as well. Eventually, he had to pit for new ones. In the end, he finished fifth behind Jonathan Aberdein. R-Motorsport drivers Daniel Juncadella and Paul di Resta crossed the line in seventh and eighth place.

After ten races, Rast is still leading the championship with 158 points. He’s followed by Mueller (136 points), Wittmann (118 points), Eng (111 points) and Rockenfeller (94 points). The next two races will be held at Brands Hatch, England, in two weeks time.


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