Darkening and overcast skies littered the Eifel region, as racing got underway for the 7th round of the 2013 DTM season, with 86,000 fans in attendance of what was set to be an exciting race. A well placed strategy by Team Phoenix’s Mike Rockenfeller after an awful start into turn 1, saw the current points leader extend his lead in the title race, finished a well-deserved P4, after leading for the majority of the race. Bruno Spengler’s title defense went from bad to worse, as he suffered another disastrous race this season, finishing in P14.
However, Robert Wickens secured his first DTM career win for Mercedes-Benz, ahead of BMW’s Augusto Farfus and Christian Vietoris, who now is second behind the Le Mans winning driver in the race for the title, with the Canadian driver third.
As the cars made their way around the circuit on the formation lap, rain started to fall, as the lights went out to set the 22 cars on their way. The change in weather saw points leader Rockenfeller spin out at Turn 1, but he was able to recover back to the front of the field after an early change to wet tyres. This was after Joey Hand and the current points leader made contact, with the American getting beached in the gravel, forcing his retirement and bringing out the Safety Car for the only time during the race.
Several other drivers were collected in the awful rain-sodden conditions, as drivers including Mattias Ekstrom, Edoardo Mortara and Bruno Spengler were involved in cars going off track or suffering damage in the early goings. Marco Wittmann suffered an early scare, hitting the barriers on Lap 5 after deciding to stay on slicks, before carrying on to finish in P7. Jamie Green and Pascal Wehrlein rounded out the top ten, with the young driver securing his first set of points for the season.
Timo Scheider retired on Lap 12, after a nudge from Filipe Albuquerque and Jamie Green put the two-time champion into the barrier just after the shortcut hairpin. This meant that the German driver had to park his RS5 DTM in the garage, due to right rear suspension damage. Daniel Juncadella beached his Mercedes in the gravel at Turn 1 on Lap 30, having spun out and suffering a DNF.
The main battle of the race was between Farfus, Adrien Tambay, Miguel Molina and Wickens, as they were fighting tooth and nail for 2nd to 5th place. Lap 19 saw the Canadian go around the outside of his three rivals like Romain Grosjean did in GP2 a couple of years ago into Turn 2, holding his nerve, which is clearly the overtake of the season. Tambay finished in P6, another great result for the French driver, who was pushing hard as he did in Moscow. Molina also finished in the points, having battled hard to P8 after his great form in qualifying.
Other battles included Spengler and Tambay, who were battling hard, as the defending champion was very aggressive throughout the duration, making contact with the French driver’s RS5 DTM into the chicane on Lap 28, causing both drivers to go straight on ahead of Martin Tomczyk who finished in the points for the first time in a year in P5 and Audi’s Albuquerque, who finished just outside the points in P11.
Gary Paffett also suffered in the hunt for the title, as his strategy onto slicks early in the race did not pay off, with the dry racing line only starting to emerge in the latter stages of the race. The Brit was finding pace a little bit too late, as he ended up in P17.
But Wickens was the man that could not be denied victory, as the DTM heads to Oschersleben in four weeks’ time, with the title fight still not really decided. We have had many highs and lows this year, but the hits still keep on coming. What will happen next? Nobody knows, as the DTM reaches the latter stages of the season with it all to play for….