“DTM: Wittmann takes first blood at Assen”

BMW’s Marco Wittmann claimed the first DTM win at a sodden Assen track this afternoon, with the double champion edging Audi’s charging Nico Müller to the flag.

Rene Rast took the final podium place in his Audi RS 5, having run in 2nd place for much of the race.

With heavy rain having rolled in for the hour prior to the start, the race began behind the safety car, before finally getting going on lap four.

Poleman Wittmann kept a feisty Rast at bay, but the race was neutralised almost immediately after Dani Juncadella’s Aston Martin Vantage DTM stopped on track with a mechanical issue, necessitating another – albeit brief – safety car.

Restarting on lap six, Wittmann spun a gap to Rast, building a lead to 1.2s within a tour and then further extending it to over two seconds by the one-third marker. Rast kept the gap in and around the margin until he stopped for fresh Hankook tyres on lap 15, dropping the 2018 champion to a temporary 6th place.

Müller, meanwhile, having started 6th, gained two positions when Pietro Fittipaldi suffered a brief off on lap seven in a battle with Timo Glock, Müller assuming Glock’s place in the melee. That became 3rd when Loïc Duval pitted on lap ten, leaving the charging Müller under five seconds shy of Rast and seven behind Wittmann.

With Rast out of the way, Wittmann pitted a lap later to counteract any advantage Rast might obtain, but in doing so, Müller was released into the lead and the Swiss racer went about building a gap.

By now, the rain has eased and was beginning to filter away into nothing and the track – slowly – began to form a less wet line; however, it was by no means going to dry out. From laps in the 1’53s, the times dropped to 1’48s come halfway and a further three seconds was taken off of that as the race aged.

Sensing an opportunity, Müller stayed out for a further eight laps, building a 43s lead by the time he entered the pits, but as he stopped for fresh rubber, his stop was just slower than that of Wittmann.
He emerged from the pits some five seconds ahead of the chasing BMW man, but in cool conditions on already cold tyres against Wittmann’s warm rubber, Müller fell towards former champion, before eventually losing the lead in a helpless manner as the lap drew to a close.

Wittmann made the most of Müller’s struggles and drew a lead of over 3.6s within a couple of tours and held it there as the race drew to a close on 31 laps.

Once up to speed, Müller lodged a couple of faster laps and he chased the BMW-man, but it was too late. Whenever Müller clocked a quicker lap or sector, Wittmann responded in kind, leaving to assume a 3.1s gap come the chequered flag.

In a race that marked the halfway point of DTM 2019, this was a stellar performance by Wittmann who claimed his 3rd win of the season, but remarkably he remains 45 points adrift of Rast in the standings.

For Müller, the Audi man was happy with his effort – after all, he took the runner-up spot despite qualifying 6th and it was a result that promotes him to 2nd in the standings. With this run of results, for the first time in his DTM career, Müller looks like a real championship challenger.

After the pitstops, Rast could do nothing to keep up with the leading pair, with the points leader falling some eight seconds adrift of the win come the flag. Useful points, but Rast showed some frustration late in the race, gesticulating at Müller from inside his RS 5 as the runner-up kept Rast at bay.

Philipp Eng took a confident 4th place in his BMW M4, albeit only two-tenths ahead of fellow BMW racer Timo Glock (5th). Starting 9th, Eng instantly claimed two places when he passed Bruno Spengler after the latter tapped Sheldon Van der Linde into a spin. That became 6th when Glock had a brief off on lap eight and 5th when Duval stopped for new tyres on lap ten.
The Austrian made another place when Fittipaldi ran wide on lap 12. Eng stayed out until the 21st tour, where upon he slotted back into 4th place once all the stopped panned out. Thereafter he kept Glock at bay, while Jonathan Aberdein closed in somewhat to take 6th.

Jamie Green enjoyed a quiet race to 7th, finishing ahead of Duval, who struggled for balance after his stop. Mike Rockenfeller claimed 9th position for Audi. The former Le Mans winner held Van der Linde and Fittipaldi at bay, with Van der Linde taking 10th and the final points position from Fittipaldi on the last lap.

Jake Dennis (12th) led home a trio of R-Motorsport-run Aston Martin Vantage’s. The Briton managed to stay ahead of Ferdinand Zvonimir Maria Balthus Keith Michael Otto Antal Bahnam Leonhard von Habsburg-Lothringen (the Archduke of Austria, Royal Prince of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia) and a charging Paul di Resta – the latter of whom lost 35s during a confused pitstop early in the race.

Spengler came home a dispirited 15th having taken a drive through penalty early in the race, following his collision with Van der Linde, while Joel Eriksson was classified last in a race once again hampered by a constantly shifting balance.

Robin Frijns did not finish his home race – the Audi racer spun into the barriers after putting a wheel on the kerb on lap 22. He had some choice words post-race, questioning why his car failed repeatedly, which in this instance left him at the back of the field for the race.

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