Robin Frijns said he was lucky to finish Race 1 of the DTM Series Brands Hatch weekend “without passing out” after a cracked exhaust sent fumes into his Audi Sport car.
Frijns reported that the issue arose soon after his sole pitstop on lap 24, having led the race due to a long opening stint, and made it increasingly uncomfortable to drive.
The Dutchman used his advantage on fresher tyres to pass Audi team-mates Mike Rockenfeller and Loïc Duval late in the 42-lap race and finish in fourth place, the third Audi car in the top four.
Frijns was the fastest man in Saturday morning’s Free Practice session, with heavy rain around 20 minutes into the 45 minutes of running confirming the result.
He qualified fifth fastest in wet-to-dry conditions, just over half-a-second off of polesitter and eventual Race 1 winner Marco Wittmann.
“I kept my tyres alive in the first stint, longer than I expected, and continued until lap 24,” Frijns explained to The Checkered Flag.
“I said on the radio that I was struggling more and more, so that’s when they boxed me.
“But then I came in and took it easy to stop myself from destroying the tyres in the first two to three laps, but then smoke came in my car.
“My exhaust was broken and I was breathing in exhaust s**t for 20 laps, so I was happy that I could finish the race without passing out.”
Fourth place puts Frijns two points clear of Duval in seventh place in the Drivers’ Championship, but he refused to make any concrete predictions on his potential for Sunday’s Race 2.
But the Audi driver has been hit by poor luck in 2019, suffering four retirements in the first 11 races of the season, despite showing good pace at most tracks.
“Qualifying today was a bit of a casino,” Frijns continued.
“So if it’s all dry, then in practice I was the quickest.
“It seems that everywhere apart from Norisring I’ve had the pace to fight at the front, so let’s see what happens.
“I can’t predict the future, so hopefully I can be competitive and start in the top four – but in the race everything can change.”