The time for talk was over as the DTM started the rivalries once again, as 42 laps of the 4.574 Hockenheimring circuit would see just who would have the measure of the early goings for the 10-race calendar. The 22 drivers from the three premium brands lined up on the start/finish straight, as the sun shone brightly down from above. 87,000 fans lined the stalls for the season opener, with track temperatures hitting nearly 30 degrees Celsius.
Both Audi Sport’s Timo Scheider and BMW Motorsport’s Augusto Farfus shot off into the distance at the start, having a titanic battle at the front of the field, before the Brazilian got past the 2-time DTM champion on Lap 5 using DRS. However, an engine fire signalled a premature end to the race of Adrien Tambay, which subsequently brought out the Safety Car.
Farfus, Bruno Spengler and many other drivers scrambled to the pit lane, with the majority of them switching from the option tyres back to the primes. But two of the rookie drivers for Mercedes-Benz decided to test them to the limit. Pascal Wehrlein has been impressive all weekend, with both him and Daniel Juncadella leading the field until the tyres started to lose their grip at around lap 25. The two former F3 drivers finished a creditable 11th and 12th respectively
Timo Glock was showing good form as well, as his Deutsche Post M3 DTM was as high as P2, until he started to struggle at around Lap 15. His race ended early, after a botched pit stop a few laps later, as he exited the pits on Lap 17, only to lose his right rear wheel as a result.
Other drivers to suffer misfortune included Robert Wickens, who put his STIHL C-Class AMG Coupe on P4, but would suffer throttle issues at the hairpin after lap 5, pulling off track in retirement. Mattias Ekstrom’s race went from bad to worse, as early contact meant his bonnet flew off later in the race, before an off-track excursion caused the Swede to make contact and spin teammate Edoardo Mortara. The two-time champion received a drive-thru penalty, but parked his car on the side of the track with just 14 laps left, with Mortara retiring just a few laps earlier, parking his RS5 DTM in the garage.
It was a mixed affair for the British contingent, as Gary Paffett was again fighting hard at the front of the field and finished 4th after some intense battling with Christian Vietoris, Martin Tomczyk and Dirk Werner, who stormed from 22nd to 2nd. Jamie Green’s first race for Ingolstadt saw him finish just behind Martin Tomczyk in 14th, showing he is still trying to make things work. Andy Priaulx’s season seems to have hit hard times already, as he found himself as the last finisher of the 17 cars that completed the race, with the 3-time WTCC champion finding himself two laps down at the end having retired.
Several drivers were being warned during the race of exceeding track limits, as Wickens found out the hard way the day before in qualifying, but the only other drive-thru was given to Filipe Albuquerque later in the race for speeding in the pit lane.
The DRS and Option tyres has made a difference to the way that the teams considered their strategies, and gave some exciting racing for the fans in attendance. BMW now starts off on the right foot, with Farfus and Werner drawing first blood, but Vietoris had a topsy-turvy race, which ended with a great race back to P3. Audi is still looking to fight hard, but with Scheider’s welcome return to being competitive, there is still time for the teams to make subtle tweaks and adjustments before British soil beckons for those V8 monsters.
Like every season in the DTM, its not a sprint, it is truly a high-octane marathon, when Brands Hatch plays hosts is just 14 days’ time, with its finest drivers looking to bring home glory to their trophy cabinets…