Audi’s Mike Rockenfeller claimed his first DTM victory in two years at Assen today, heading Marco Wittmann (BMW) and Nico Müller (Audi) to the flag.
Championship leader Rene Rast led for much of the race but dropped down the order following a second stop for tyres mid-race.
From 3rd on the grid, Rockenfeller surged past the slow starting Jonathan Aberdein, to slot into 2nd place behind the polesitting Rast, who maintained a reasonable, if not overly comfortable lead in the opening stint.
With rear tyre wear a primary concern, drivers began to stop within the opening third of the race, as excessive damage to the front left took hold on many entries. Loïc Duval (Audi) and Bruno Spengler (BMW) were the first to give way on laps six and eight, while the fast starting Wittmann stopped on lap 13.
With a lead of just 1.7s, Rast stayed out for a further two tours, taking new Hankooks and a drop to 8th position. For the 2017 champion, his next set of tyres lasted only six laps, before dramatically falling off of the cliff to the point where he was losing over four seconds per lap to the chasing Wittmann and Rockenfeller.
As Wittmann also began to struggle, Rockenfeller pressed and took the BMW racer and then assumed the lead once Rast made an additional stop for new rubber, dropping him down to 10th.
Having driven a relatively uneventful race up until that point, Rockenfeller drew a solid gap over Wittmann, as the BMW-man continued to suffer on his now ageing Hankook’s. Bring the lead to just over 5s, Rockenfeller eased the pace and brought his RS 5 machine home for 25 valuable points, promoting ahead of Spengler in the standings.
Despite his slowing pace, Wittmann spread his own gap to Müller, whose championship charge is beginning to take shape.
Aberdein assumed 4th place following his torrid start. With overheating brakes on the grid, Aberdein fell from the front row to 8th by turn one. The South African set a solid pace in the opening stint, losing out only to Wittmann in the opening laps, but managed to climb up the order as pitstops played out.
On fresher tyres, Aberdein made his Hankooks keep shape and a series of moves on Jamie Green, Pietro Fittipaldi and Robin Frijns promoted him up the order, as did several 2nd stops for top and midfield runners. The Audi man had built enough of a lead to keep the charging Rast at bay come the chequered flag to score his best result of the season.
Rast had to make do with 5th come the end, but considering he was 10th with four laps remaining, this represented a key drive for the Audi racer. Despite his extra stop – which could have dropped him further down had he not stopped – Rast drove exceptionally well and fought hard to go around the outside of Frijns and Dani Juncadella on the final tour.
Frijns held on to 6th, despite losing nearly 4s per lap in the final few miles. He was challenged hard by the Aston Martin Vantage of Juncadella in the final tours, but even though he scored reasonable points, he rued a race where he had run as high as 3rd during its mid-point.
Juncadella took some good points for Aston Martin, ending the day just half-a-second ahead of teammate Paul di Resta at the flag. This was a good result for a happy di Resta, who had lost positions with an off on the first lap.
Jamie Green took 9th ahead of Fittipaldi, while Duval could not recover fully from his 2nd stop and came home 11th. Habsburg ended the day 12th ahead of Philipp Eng (BMW, 13th), Timo Glock (BMW, 14th), Sheldon Van der Linde (BMW, 15th) and Joel Eriksson (BMW, 16th).
Neither Spengler nor Aston’s Jake Dennis finished the race, with the latter suffering from brake issues.