Race one on Saturday 21st August at the Nürburgring, there were 23 cars on the grid for the first time, the highest number in many years. Another first this weekend was that Porsche made its début in DTM, although the race was short-lived for SSR Performance’s Michael Ammermüller who had to retire from the race with his Porsche 911 following the opening lap.
Before the race commenced, all of the DTM drivers and team principals assembled in front of the grandstand at the end of the start and finish straight holding a “Thank you to everybody who has helped out” banner and a minute of silence to remember the victims of the flooding disaster on 14 and 15 July, especially in the Ahr valley close to the Nürburgring.
The race itself proved to be a thoroughly exciting one with breath-taking position fights, hot bumper-to-bumper duels and hard overtaking manoeuvres leading to some penalties. Due to varying strategies for the mandatory pit stops, a handful of drivers racked up laps in the lead. Local hero Mike Rockenfeller led the field for the longest time with the ABT Audi as he procrastinated his pit stop as long as he could.
It was the 25 year old South African, Kelvin van der Linde who pulled out all of the stops to claim pole position, set the fastest lap and then take his third win of the season in an impressive manner with the ABT Sportsline Audi, extending his lead in the drivers’ standings. The best-placed guest driver was Luca Stolz in the Toksport WRT team Mercedes-AMG secured second place on the podium, ahead of Philip Ellis with the WINWARD Mercedes-AMG. As a guest driver isn’t eligible for points, fourth-placed local hero Rockenfeller took the points for third place.
Race two on Sunday 22nd August gave us even more exciting moments with the close double-file formation starts being repeated twice after safety car interventions. AlphaTauri Ferrari driver Alex Albon charged into the lead from pole position and led the field from Daniel Juncadella’s GruppeM-Mercedes-AMG and Michael Ammermüller’s SSR Performance Porsche 911. The first lap led to the first incident as Philip Ellis slid his Mercedes AMG through the gravel trap and then spread several carbon parts across the track. Then the Team Mücke Motorsport Mercedes-AMG Maximilian Buhk was hit and ended up in the pit wall, after which the safety car was deployed for the first time.
After the first pit stops, guest driver Hubert Haupt, who made his comeback after his DTM campaigns in 1991/1992 and 2001, saw the Mercedes-AMG of his HRT team grounded to a halt with technical failure, the safety car came out once again. Liam Lawson triggered the next incident, making an optimistic manoeuvre in the chicane, but to no avail. As a result, none other but the two ABT Audis of van der Linde and Rockenfeller retired, Lawson incurred a drive-through penalty. Having arrived as runner-up in the points standings, 19-year-old Red Bull junior driver Lawson left the Nürburgring empty-handed.
“Today, that was a really good day for my team and for myself,” Albon said after becoming the first DTM race winner from Thailand. “The team has been working hard overnight and that paid off. Today, we have made a step forward, we want to carry over this momentum.”
After eight of 16 races, van der Linde is the unofficial ‘half-time champion’ of the 2021 DTM. With 129 points, he is starting the second half of the season as the leader in the drivers’ standings. Maximilian Götz is sitting in second place with 96 points, followed by Wittmann with 94 points and Albon with 82 points in fourth place.