Marco Wittman secured the first victory of the new DTM Series season at the Hockenheimring, with the BMW racer edging his way to what looked like a comfortable win despite pressure from behind throughout from Audi drivers.
On Sunday it was the turn of another former champion Rene Rast to claim the honours, this time after an impressive two-stop strategy that propelled the German from the rear of the field to the front.
The new era of DTM began at the traditional season-opening venue, and it was Wittmann who gave BMW Team RMG the pole position on Saturday morning on a slippery track. The German, a two-time DTM Series champion, took top spot by 0.066 seconds from Mike Rockenfeller, while Paul di Resta gave Aston Martin an early boost with third on the grid on the Vantage’s debut in the series.
The race begun in the wet with Wittman holding the lead into turn one, with Robin Frijns of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline jumping from fifth on the grid to run second, while Timo Glock had a quick 360-degree spin exiting the first turn after contact with Rast, although he was able to keep going without too much drama.
Frijns was unable to match Wittmann’s pace up front and found himself relegated to third as his Audi stablemate Rockenfeller found a way passed on lap four, before Rast made gains himself to pass them both by the end of lap thirteen.
Rast found himself on the tail of Wittmann but was unable to get close enough to make a pass, and with five laps remaining he found himself out of the race all together at the Sachskurve with a suspected gearbox failure on his Audi Sport Team Rosberg machine.
Wittmann made his mandatory pit stop with just three laps remaining and took the victory by an impressive 13.727 seconds from Rockenfeller, while Frijns secured the final spot on the podium, although he was 34.681 seconds back from the race winner.
Despite his first lap rotation, Glock secured an excellent fourth for BMW Team RMR, although he missed out on the podium to Frijns after the Dutchman pitted a lap earlier and was up to speed sooner to sweep ahead of the German heading into turn two.
Loic Duval was more than a minute adrift of race winner Wittmann but was still able to take fifth place for Audi Sport Team Phoenix ahead of series debutant Sheldon van der Linde of BMW Team RBM, while Bruno Spengler of BMW Team RMG took seventh ahead of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline’s Nico Müller.
Daniel Juncadella ensured Aston Martin and R-Motorsport’s debut in the DTM Series was not without some reward as the Spaniard claimed ninth and two points, mainly thanks to a pit stop gamble of a first lap pit stop, while the final point went the way of another debutant, Pietro Fittipaldi of Audi Sport Team WRT.
Di Resta’s race began with him running inside the top five but he was one of two other retirements, aside from Rast, from the race, with the Scot retiring at the end of the seventeenth lap in the pits, while the race’s first retirement was that of Ferdinand Habsburg after just two laps.
Philipp Eng took pole position for Sunday’s second race, a day after suffering with a sensor issue that prevented him from running in Saturday’s Qualifying session, with the Austrian breaking the DTM track record at the same time.
Eng, racing for BMW Team RMR, took top spot by more than four-tenths of a second from race one winner Wittmann, while Frijns and Müller filled row two ahead of Spengler and Glock.
However, come race time, a two-pit stop gamble from Rast and Audi saw the German climb from the back of the field to take his first victory of 2019, and his seventh victory in eight races having taken the final six on offer at the back end of 2018.
His first stop came behind the safety car, required when Duval’s car needed removing from the Sachskurve gravel trap, but with regulations within DTM dictating that mandatory pit stops cannot be taken behind the safety car, it was clear the German would need to stop once more later in the race.
Within four laps of the restart, Rast had picked off a number of his rivals to run second, before taking the lead from poleman Eng at the Spitzkehre hairpin to take the lead a lap later. When he made his mandatory pit stop under green flag conditions, he ran second to di Resta, but the superior pace of the Audi saw the Aston Martin being reeled in by more than three seconds a lap, enough to force the Scot into making a second pit stop of his own.
This left Rast with an easy run to the chequered flag, with Müller claiming second place for his first podium of the season ahead of Frijns, who was third for a second consecutive afternoon ahead of Eng, who could not hold onto that final spot on the podium thanks to Frijns being on fresher tyres towards the end of the race.
Spengler took fifth ahead of Glock, with the latter surviving a wide moment at the safety car restart at Spitskurve and a late charge from di Resta to secure sixth, while Wittmann took eighth despite contact with Muller early on and a spin after contact with Fittipaldi that earned the Brazilian a drive-through penalty.
Another driver who took a drive-through was Jamie Green, this time for spinning around van der Linde, but the Briton recovered strongly to pass both Jake Dennis (Aston Martin) and Joel Eriksson (BMW) on the final lap to take ninth. Eriksson managed to deny Dennis the final point, with the Briton forced to settle for a second consecutive eleventh place finish.
Wittmann leaves the Hockenheimring as the early leader in the championship standings with thirty-four points, three points ahead of Frijns, while Rast’s race two victory ensured he ends the weekend third.
Only two of the five series debutants scored points, with van der Linde leading Hockenheim with eight points and Fittipaldi with one, while Aston Martin’s debut weekend saw them take nine points in total, one point for di Resta’s qualifying performance on Saturday, two points for Juncadella’s race one result, and four more points for di Resta’s race two seventh place.
Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline lead the Teams’ Championship on fifty-three points ahead of BMW Team RMG on fifty points.