A truly competitive spirit also paid off for BMW driver Marco Wittmann. Thr defending champion already moved up from 17th to tenth place at the start and eventually charged to third place. On Saturday, Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller had already put in a similar performance. “After qualifying, I was frustrated, because we had changed to slicks too early. Conditions were difficult today. I think that my pit crew went ballistic. Without any radio communication from the pits, the driver has to make the call for the tyre change. Third place feels like a victory for me,” the overjoyed 27-year-old said.
The second DTM race of the weekend started with a bang and a premiere. After the start, Mercedes-AMG driver Robert Wickens tangled with Nico Müller, who, in turn, made contact with Loïc Duval. For Wickens, the race was already over after the first corner. The safety car was deployed. And for the first time, the spectators got to see the Indianapolis start with a double-file grid formation. The restart mixed up the front-runners. Erstwhile leader Timo Glock dropped back from first to fourth. Eventually, the second-placed from the first race on Saturday finished eighth this time with his BMW M4 DTM.
Jamie Green then led the field from Auer and Bruno Spengler. Subsequently, Green incurred a five seconds’ pit stop penalty for an incorrect grid position, but as the Brit consistently increased his margin as the race leader, the penalty that he served during his tyre change, hardly affected him. René Rast, second in qualifying, was rather unfortunate. The Audi driver retired on lap four already following a collision with Augusto Farfus. “With the slick tyres and a little bit of rain, driving was extremely difficult,” the race winner analysed. “I slid once, but I was fast enough, so no problem for me. The decision when to change to rain tyres was mine and mine alone to make. The timing was spot-on.”
From lap 18, the floodgates opened more and more. Those drivers who were still out with slicks immediately headed for the pits. Wittmann, Paffett and Green changed to rain tyres almost at the same time. Auer stayed out for one lap longer than his opponents and then rejoined the field in second place behind Green. “Perhaps, I stayed out a little bit too long, but on the other hand, the rain could have stopped, too. Then, it would have been absolutely perfect. Basically, I am happy, the new restart was crazy,” Auer emphasized. His joy about a possible next podium finish only lasted for two laps, because then the Austrian locked up under braking and dropped back to fourth behind Paffett and Wittmann.
Still, Auer remains in the lead of the drivers’ standing at 40 points after the first weekend of racing, ahead of Green and Paffett, who are tied at 26 points each. “It was an incredible season opener for the DTM with all three brands on the podium in both races, and with different drivers on top of that,” Gary Paffett summed up. And he was by no means the only one with that view after two days of action-packed and thrilling racing at Hockenheim.
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