For the third round of the 2022 season, the DTM circus travelled to Imola, Italy. A positive, yet mixed weekend for Rene Rast, but also a surprisingly good weekend for Abt’s other driver Ricardo Feller.
Ahead of the weekend, DTM’s ITR announced that one of the teams would not compete in the two Imola rounds. Lamborghini’s T3 Motorsport with their drivers Nicki Thiim and Esmee Hawkey were disappointed that both DTM cars, as well as their DTM Trophy cars, would not race.
So, for the first qualifying of the weekend on Saturday, we got our fifth different polesitter of the season. Rene Rast claimed his first of the season, but the 21st of his career. ‘Incredible’, the German said after the session. ‘Prior to the season, I never expected to be on pole here. The others already have so much experience with these cars, so I didn’t think I would be this competitive.’
Only in the final seconds of the session, Rast reclaimed the top spot to take pole position with a time of 1:39,817. Audi’s Nico Mueller lines up alongside him. Third on the grid, also scoring his first DTM points, was Porsche’s Thomas Preining. The other Austrian on the grid, Clemens Schmid, lines up fourth. Fifth was Ricardo Feller, another impressive result. Initially, Mirko Bortolotti would start the race from sixth. However, after using an incorrect set of tyres during FP2, the Italian will drop 10 places on the grid. Therefore Kelvin van der Linde starts sixth.
Moving on to the race. Even though temperatures were really high and asked a lot from the drivers and their cars, Rast kept his head cool to secure a lights-to-flag victory. It’s his first race win since November 2020. The top four were unchanged at the start, Rast led from Mueller and Preining. Rast headed to the pits first on lap six, together with Preining. Mueller and Schmid followed a lap later. Though, Mueller came under pressure from Preining which was positive for Rast, as he could stretch his advantage over the Swiss.
‘Overwhelming!’, Rast said after the race. ‘It simply was a perfect race: the start, the pitstop, the race, everything was smooth. It was very, very hot. You have to fight in the car all the time.’
Feller was on his way to a good result, after a slow start. However, as he was back in fifth, his race ended early when he headed into the pits with a right-rear puncture on lap 26. At this point, all eyes were on Bortolotti. After starting from 16th, the Lamborghini driver stayed out long, only pitting on lap 22 and rejoining in eighth place. He used his fresh tyres and managed to overtake. In the final few laps of the race, things got exciting as he was battling Preining. In the end, Bortolotti finished third, stealing the last podium spot from Preining. ‘Absolutely incredible. The strategy of staying out long and then attacking with fresh tyres towards the end worked out perfectly.’
Preining finished fourth, ahead of Kelvin van der Linde, Schmid and Marco Wittmann. BMW’s Sheldon van der Linde, who’s leading the championship, finished eighth with an additional 25 kilos in his BMW. Completing the top ten are Dennis Olsen and Maro Engel. Guest entry Timo Glock was unlucky – after contact on the first lap, he parked his BMW.
Sunday at Imola, the second qualifying session of the weekend. Another new polesitter, as it was rookie Ricardo Feller who claimed the best starting position. Halfway through the session, Lucas Auer led Kelvin van der Linde. Though, both headed to the pits, unable to defend their positions while others improved. Feller’s pole time was 1:39,814. Another rookie, Felipe Fraga lines up alongside the Abt Audi. Wittmann starts third, his best result of the season so far, ahead of Engel, Schmid and Cassidy.
The second race of the weekend got underway Sunday afternoon. Feller managed to hold off Fraga at the start of the race, though he made a mistake and went through the gravel in the final corner and lost his position. But, luckily he got another chance as there was a Safety Car on track following a collision between Rolf Ineichen and Preining.
While battling with Auer, Fraga took too much kerb and bumped into Auer. This contact led to damage and therefore also a retirement for the Brazilian who started from second on the grid. Meanwhile, at the front, a battle between Gore and Feller was going on for the lead. After stopping as early as possible, Gore had to defend from Feller. The latter had a better run at the exit of Tosa and took the lead. ‘This simply feels really nice. After the restart, I didn’t know whether it would be enough, but I just gave it all I had.’
Gore, who finished second was also full of joy. ‘This is cool! My team has done everything right during the safety car phase. I was just worried whether the tyres would last. I am the first American on the DTM podium, that is making me really proud.’
Just a few corners before the end of the race, Wittmann made a deciding move on Auer to take the final podium spot. Sheldon van der Linde finished fifth, ahead of Philipp Eng and Maro Engel. Completing the top ten were Mueller, Maximilian Gotz and Bortolotti. Glock showed he still has his talent, as he just missed out on the top ten.
The next round of the season will take place at the legendary street circuit Norisring, Germany from 1 to 3 July. AF Corse’s Cassidy will miss that round due to a clashing commitment in Formula E. His replacement will be Turkish Ayhancan Guven. He previously raced in the Porsche Carrera Cup France and later the Porsche Supercup.