The 5th round of the 2013 DTM season at the Norisring saw Audi Sport’s Mattias Ekstrom celebrate his 35th birthday in the right way, winning behind the wheel of his RS5 DTM for the first time, and ending a drought since Valencia 2011 for race wins. Mercedes-Benz, however, had pole sitter Robert Wickens secure his best career finish in second, ahead of Christian Vietoris, who secured yet another consistent podium result this season.
He also ended a 10-year streak of dominance by Mercedes-Benz, with Audi taking its first win at it’s home race since Laurent Aiello in 2002, which was a welcome result on a very special weekend for Stuttgart, who celebrated 25 years of participation in the DTM.
It was a disastrous affair for two former champions, as Timo Scheider struggled to get off the line as the lights went out, with a potential brake issue, stopping at the pit lane exit, followed by Martin Tomczyk’s early exit after damage sustained on Lap 12 hitting the wall after the Grundig hairpin.
This was after the slightest of contact with ”Mr. Norisring,” Jamie Green, who also failed to finish on Lap 64 with a technical problem. Rookie Mercedes driver Pascal Wehrlein also suffered his first DNF of the year, retiring shortly after Green.
Both incidents involving Scheider and Tomczyk brought out the Safety Car, before the action got into full flow. Gary Paffett and Edoardo Mortara were charging hard, along with Ekstrom, who took the lead on Lap 64. However, on Lap 78, the Italian, who seemed to miss his braking point, hit Paffett hard from behind into the Grundig hairpin and it meant that both Wickens and Vietoris got through.
The battle between the two came to a head, when both drivers ended up in the way, after contact was made in the final lap of the race after coming out of the Dutzendteich hairpin, with Paffett not happy with his rival’s actions in the latter part of proceedings.
This meant that Daniel Juncadella was promoted to a career-best finish of 4th, with Mike Rockenfeller playing an excellent strategy to end up 5th ahead of defending champion and close rival, Bruno Spengler, who said that it was unlucky to have suffered the results they did, as BMW did have a good pace on track. Roberto Merhi had his best finish of the year so far in 7th, ahead of Joey Hand, Andy Priaulx and Marco Wittmann, who rounded out the top ten.
We now head to new unchartered waters in Russia at the Moscow Speedway in three weeks’ time, as the title race is clearly hotting up at the halfway point. Rockenfeller is just 2 points ahead of Spengler, with Vietoris, Paffett, Ekstrom and Wickens also in clear contention, it is still a long way before we find out a clear leader, and that the answer to “Who is next?” will finally be provided…