Rene Rast claims his fourth victory in a row at Zolder. Therefore, he extends his championship lead with one more round to go. A surprise podium finish for BMW’s ART driver Robert Kubica.
Ferdinand Habsburg started the race from pole, with Rene Rast lining up alongside him. Habsburg got off the line well and kept the lead, although Rast tried to make a move into the first corner. He did not succeed, as he went wide and onto the dirt. A little further back, Nico Mueller moved up to third after starting from fifth.
Drama occurred on lap two, bringing out the safety car when Jonathan Aberdein hit the back of Fabio Scherer in the chicane. As a result of this, Scherer lost control over his car and collected Robin Frijns. The latter had to park his car beside the track with broken steering. Both Aberdein and Scherer made it back to the pits but retired as well.
For Frijns this was particularly bad, as he lost valuable points for the championship. ‘I had overtaken Fabio [Scherer] shortly before the accident and didn’t even realize what was happening behind me. All of a sudden, I felt a hard hit and the race was over. It is very disappointing.’
On lap five the race was restarted, but not for long. Benoit Treluyer, who stands in for Loic Duval this weekend, hit BMW’s Lucas Auer at Turn 1. Then, two corners later Auer collided with Philipp Eng, bringing out the safety car again. Eng was forced to stop on the side of the track as the front-left tyre caught fire. Auer and Treluyer managed to get back to the pits but retired with damage to their cars.
The race went back to green on lap eleven, with Habsburg leading from Rast and Mueller. Habsburg and Mueller were the first ones to head into the pits for their mandatory stops on lap 12. Rast and Mike Rockenfeller followed one lap later. A deciding move, as the duo rejoined the track ahead of their fellow Audi drivers. However, when Rockenfeller made a slight mistake at the chicane, Habsburg managed to get past, quickly followed by Mueller as well.
The virtual leaders caught up with Jamie Green, who pitted on lap 14. Both Rast and Habsburg managed to get past right away. But, Mueller got stuck behind which ended in a hard battle for fourth. Green had to give back the position to Mueller after cutting the chicane.
In the meantime, Robert Kubica was leading the race but had yet to pit, which he did on lap 18. The Polish driver rejoined the track in fourth. It appeared Kubica’s lap times were significantly quicker compared to Habsburg and Mueller. The latter got past Habsburg in the final chicane to take over second place. Two laps later Kubica also made the move and jumped to third.
Habsburg kept struggling as Glock, Green, Rockenfeller and Sheldon van der Linde got past as well. Eventually, the Austrian WRT driver made a second pitstop ‘for safety reasons’ on lap 32.
Meanwhile, in the front, Rast had a comfortable lead with Mueller being unable to catch him. Rast crossed the line with a gap of 11.5 seconds to Mueller. It’s his 23rd victory in DTM, equalling Mattias Ekstrom and Gary Paffet with third-most wins in the series. It’s also his fourth in a row – winning all races at Zolder. This means Rast extends his championship lead with one round to go.
‘I’m pretty speechless,’ said Rast after the race. ‘With the many safety car periods, it was a very difficult race today. A lot could have gone wrong, but it all worked out for us. We made the right decisions at the right moments and my Audi RS5 DTM was terrific again today.’
A somewhat surprising podium finish for Kubica, who crossed the line in third today as best of the BMWs. It’s the Pole’s maiden podium in the series, in his rookie season. ‘This is a great moment for the entire ART Grand Prix team after a difficult season. We had a lot to learn and needed to improve in many areas. Everything worked really well today. We managed to steer clear of all the problems and took our chances. We had really good pace in the decisive stages of the race.’
Timo Glock started the race from 14th but managed to finish fourth, nearly 30 seconds behind Rast. Audi drivers Green and Rockenfeller crossed the line in fifth and sixth, ahead of Van der Linde in seventh. Completing the top ten are two-time champion Marco Wittmann, Harrison Newey and Habsburg. The remaining six drivers all retired.
Thanks to another victory today, Rast managed to extend his championship lead to 19 points over Mueller. Frijns is now 41 points behind, as a result of two retirements in the past two weekends at Zolder. The season finale at the Hockenheimring will take place in three weeks time on 6-8 November. With two races left, there are still 56 points up for grabs.