Rene Rast claims his second victory of the weekend in Zolder and closes in on the championship. Title candidate and rival Robin Frijns crashed out while exiting the pits. Mike Rockenfeller and Lucas Auer complete the podium.
There was drama for Rast before the race even started. Concerns if he was able to make it to the start when a fire was discovered on his car on the starting grid. Luckily, his mechanics did a good job managing the issue and made sure his engine was not damaged.
Rast qualified third on the grid behind Timo Glock and Sheldon van der Linde. Rast made a perfect start and jumped between the BMW duo, taking the lead after the first corner. Then, the drama continued when Glock made contact with the Audi from Ferdinand Habsburg – sending them both into the gravel and dropping to the back of the grid. This allowed Rockenfeller to move up to second.
Meanwhile, Frijns also made a good start and moved up from eighth to fourth, behind Van der Linde. On lap three, Frijns made a strong pass on Van der Linde, taking over third place. He was on a good run, somewhere around three seconds behind the leader before making his pitstop. Frijns was the first driver of the leaders to come in for his mandatory stop on lap 11. Disaster struck, when he hit the barriers on fresh, cold tyres when exiting the pitlane. The incident caused damage to the steering of his Audi RS5 DTM – meaning he parked his car. His car caught fire, which brought out the safety car.
Fortunately, Rast and Rockenfeller went in for their mandatory stops the lap before the safety car got deployed. They re-joined the track in ninth and tenth place. However, Marco Wittmann was less lucky as he made his first stop under safety car conditions – which does not count as a mandatory stop. This forced him to make a second stop later on in the race.
After seven laps behind the safety car, racing resumed on lap 19. Van der Linde was leading but immediately got passed by Nico Mueller. However, he still needed to pit, which he did on lap 22. This dropped him back to eighth. He was stuck behind Wittmann, who emerged in front of Mueller after making his second pitstop.
When all pitstops were absolved, Rast was able to control the race and kept increasing his lead. In the end, he crossed the line 5.4 seconds ahead of Rockenfeller – scoring his fourth victory of the season. He also moves up to second in the championship standing, just 10 points behind Mueller.
‘This was a crazy race in which many things happened,’ said Rast after the race. ‘The fire on the starting grid. At the start from three to one even before the first corner. The safety car. We made the right decisions today and had a perfect car again. I’ve always said that one or two races can decide everything and things can turn around very quickly again. You saw today what can happen.’
For Rockenfeller, this second place is his best result of the year. The 2013 champion has been unlucky a few times this season, for example in yesterday’s race when his pitstop went wrong. ‘A second place is good and I’m happy about the trophy that I can take home to my children,’ he said. ‘Of course, it was crucial today to get to the pits before the safety car. We did everything right, thanks to my team. I’m not quite happy that I couldn’t keep up with Rene. I think we know where we need to improve and hope to be closer to him next weekend.’
BMW’s Lucas Auer completed the podium today. An impressive comeback after starting from 12th on the grid. ‘I had a good start and I think I had already made up three places from twelfth after the first corner. That was important. After that, things settled down pretty quickly. Robin and I were in for the decisive pit stop at the same time. That was perfect. We kept cool and brought it home, although the tyres were completely gone. I am happy with my team, we are all pushing 24/7.’
Glock also recovered well after his collision on the first lap. He benefitted from the safety car and crossed the line in fourth. Then, the WRT trio also took advantage of the safety car. Fabio Scherer, Harrison Newey and Habsburg all pitted prior to Frijns’ incident. They crossed the line in fifth, sixth and seventh.
Wittmann claimed eighth place, followed by Mueller. The latter did not manage to pass Wittmann after his second stop and therefore had to settle for ninth. Van der Linde completes the top ten.
A few penalties were handed out. Jonathan Aberdein, who finished 11th, had to serve a five-second pitstop penalty for an inaccurate grid position. Then, Loic Duval caused an unsafe release in the pitlane, receiving a drive-through penalty. Another drive-through for Philipp Eng – for a violation of the safety car restart. Duval and Eng finished 13th and 14th.
The series will stay in Belgium for another race next weekend in Zolder next weekend. After today’s race, Mueller is still leading the championship with 259 points. Thanks to Frijns’ incident, Rast moves up to second place with 249. Frijns now has 243. Despite only scoring 2 points today, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline secures the Teams’ Championship early.