A perfect day for Rene Rast. He claims his fifth victory of the season – third consecutive – and takes the championship lead. Robin Frijns finished second at Zolder ahead of Ferdinand Habsburg.
Polesitter Rast took the lead at the start of the race, followed by Ferdinand Habsburg and Robin Frijns who all kept their positions. Championship leader Nico Mueller had qualified eighth, starting in the middle of it all. Right after the start, Mueller’s bad luck continued as he was pushed wide at Turn 2 by Harrison Newey and collided with Timo Glock as well – dropping him to the back of the field.
A safety car was deployed after the incident to retrieve debris from the track. The restart was on lap four, with Rast keeping the lead from Habsburg and Frijns. Meanwhile, Mueller moved back up to eleventh. Unfortunately, after only four laps Mike Rockenfeller went into the pits to retire his car due to an oil leak. More bad luck for Sheldon van der Linde who received a drive-through penalty for an infringement at the restart.
Along with Marco Wittmann and Lucas Auer, Mueller made his pitstop at the end of lap 5. One lap later, newcomer Benoit Treluyer made his stop. However, he received a drive-through penalty for exceeding the maximum pit speed. In the front, the gap between Rast and Habsburg was 1.4 seconds.
Mueller continued to work his way back up the order. On lap nine, he managed to pass WRT’s Newey for tenth place in a hard but fair battle. One lap later, the yellow flags were brought out when Jamie Green spun after contact with BMW’s Philipp Eng. The latter received a drive-through penalty for the incident.
Meanwhile, in the front, Frijns was closing in on Habsburg and eventually made the move for a virtual second place at Turn 5. On lap 11, both Frijns and Habsburg made their mandatory pitstops. Rast answered right away, pitting one lap later. He rejoined the track with a comfortable lead over Frijns. However, the Dutchman started to close the gap to Rast. When Frijns was close enough to make a move, he went wide at Turn 2 and lost momentum. This gave Rast some breathing space again.
It seemed like Rast was untouchable at the front of the field. Though, in the final laps of the race, Frijns managed to close the gap to 1.5 seconds again. Even though the gap kept coming down, it wasn’t enough to prevent Rast from winning – 0.8 seconds separated the pair at the chequered flag. It’s Rast’s third consecutive victory at Zolder. And this also means he claims the championship lead for the first time this year.
‘Two weeks ago, it still looked as if we wouldn’t be able to win the championship,’ Rast commented after the race. ‘Turning things around like this within a week and a half is a great feeling. I am very happy. Robin [Frijns] was extremely strong today. He put a lot of pressure on me after his pit stop and also during the final laps. It was not an easy race.’
Habsburg lost second place to Frijns early on. Then, he received a lot of pressure from Jonathan Aberdein in the closing stages. Habsburg managed to hold on to his third place and took his maiden victory in the series. ‘For me, the highlight of the race was Ferdinand Habsburg’s third place,’ said Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass. ‘WRT deservedly clinched the first podium for a customer team in the modern DTM era.’
Aberdein finished the race in fourth as best of the BMWs. WRT’s Fabio Scherer claims fifth, equalling his best result just like one week ago. Despite dropping to the back of the grid early on in the race, Mueller managed to fight back to finish sixth. In the second half of the race, he was stuck behind Scherer, unable to pass him. Mueller is now second in the championship, 10 points behind Rast. He remains 5 points ahead of his teammate Frijns.
The third WRT driver, Newey, managed to finish seventh in today’s race. In the final few laps of the race, Green caught up with Glock. The pair went side-by-side on lap 35, slightly touching at the Gilles Villeneuve chicane. Green managed to pass Glock. However, he received a warning and had to give back the position. Then, on the final lap of the race, Green got past and crossed the line in eighth ahead of Glock. Wittmann completed the top ten.
After Rockenfeller, Robert Kubica also retired his car after engine issues on lap 18 of the race. Benoit Treluyer, who stands in for Loic Duval this weekend, finished last one lap down.
Track action continues tomorrow morning with qualifying at 10.30 local time (09.30 UK time). The second race of the weekend will start at 13.30 local time (12.30 UK time).