Even though Timo Scheider had put the new Audi A5 DTM on Pole Position for the very first time in 21 months, his weekend went awry from the moment racing got underway at Zandvoort for Round 7 of the 2012 season. Edoardo Mortara, however, picked up his second win of the year following his earlier victory at Spielburg, with fellow Audi drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Mattias Ekström ensuring a truly dominant weekend at the sandy Dutch venue, showing that Audi was back with a bang after the summer break.
Scheider, however, suffered a disastrous race, as his Audi A5 DTM stalled as the lights went out for the first of 43 laps, instantly dropping the veteran rapidly down the field. With the track temperature being slightly compromised, due to wet weather earlier on in the day, as well as rain emerging on the formation lap, drama was to quickly unfold at “Hugenholtz” corner, with Robert Wickens spinning after contact with fellow Mercedes-Benz driver Christian Vietoris, before BMW’s Andy Priaulx and Audi’s Rahal Frey were hit by the Canadian’s car. Vietoris ended up in the pits and retired, along with Frey stopping at Scheivlak, as well as Miguel Molina being the other party in Wickens’ initial accident, with his A5 DTM being lifted off track.
So as the Safety Car proceeded around track, Rockenfeller led from Mortara, Filipe Albuquerque, Ekström and a very quick Gary Paffett, who had passed teammate Jamie Green for 5th. Bruno Spengler had made his way up through the field, as a result of the first lap carnage, going from 18th to 11th, whereas Scheider returned to the pits to have his bonnet replaced, as Green passed Paffett coming into Tarzan, followed quickly by overtaking Albuquerque going into the S-bend.
Paffett found that it was not at all plain sailing, as he was under pressure from the very quick Adrien Tambay, before Scheider’s new bonnet disintegrated along the main straight, scattering debris and bringing out the Safety Car yet again for 3 more laps. The Audi driver was clearly disconsolate after such a poor performance, as he marched back to the pits, keeping his helmet on.
The first round of pit stops occurred on lap 11, with the strategies becoming apparent, as the drivers made their choices as to how their optimum pace would unfold. David Coulthard would have a weekend to forget as well, as the Scot came in on Lap 16 with a right rear wheel issue, before going out again, and retiring just 7 laps later.
Paffett and Ekstrom were battling hard, swapping places like no tomorrow, but this enabled defending champion Martin Tomczyk to catch up to the pair, before Lap 28 was to be a decisive moment for the Bavarian, as he had a brake issue coming into Tarzan, as the rain began to fall once again, with him turning round Paffett at Tarzan, with Albuquerque flying off track, sliding into the gravel. The Portuguese driver would continue, but ended up retiring on Lap 34.
Green would pass Spengler for fourth later in proceedings, whilst Rockenfeller was overtaken by Mortara at Tarzan, with the Italian voicing his frustrations about being the faster vehicle. As he passed his fellow Audi stable mate, he gave him a slight nudge, as the pair went through Tarzan, and then proceeded to keep a 1-second lead until the end of the race, picking up another victory this season, ahead of both Rockenfeller and Ekström.
Even though Mercedes-Benz have not made the best impact after the summer break, Paffett cleared showed that his AMG C-Class Coupe had plenty left in reserve, as the race pace towards the end of the race clearly showed. The current Vodafone McLaren Mercedes test driver surged from 10th to 7th in the last couple of laps, passing Ralf Schumacher, Augusto Farfus and Dirk Werner, finishing behind title rival Spengler, who was the highest BMW finisher, with Green being the highest ranked Mercedes of the race, having finished 4th.
This now means that Paffett still leads, but the gap to his rivals has been closed yet again, as the Briton is now on 109 points, from teammate Green on 93 points, and Spengler leading the BMW charge a further two points behind. The DTM heads back to Germany, with Oschersleben being Round 8’s location in just three weeks’ time, as Mortara now closes the gap to the leaders, now on 74 points, showing that he could also rock the boat, in what has been the closest season in recent DTM history.