By Berthold Bouman, DTM Correspondent
- Spengler wins rain plagued race
- Tomczyk from tenth to third place
- Green and Ekstrom steal the show
Due to heavy rain, the fifth race in the DTM Championship started behind the safety car, and finished behind the safety car as well, Canadian Bruno Spengler (Mercedes-Benz Bank AMG) won the race, Jamie Green (AMG Mercedes) took second and Martin Tomczyk (Audi Sport Team Phoenix) a surprising third position.
Race winner Spengler, “That was one of the most difficult races of my career. Even with the safety car out on track, there was still a lot of aquaplaning. The stewards took the right decision to red flag the race.” Spengler is still leading the championship, “We had a great strategy and my car was superb today: a big thank you to my team for their work. My second win of the season has put me back in the championship lead. That’s a great feeling.”
After the official start, the safety car pulled off the track after five laps and the race finally really took off, Spengler headed the pack on an incredible wet circuit, followed by Gary Paffett (Tomas Sabo AMG Mercedes), Green, Mattias Ekstrom (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline), Ralf Schumacher (Salzgitter AMG Mercedes) and Maro Engel (GQ AMG Mercedes).
Spengler had the advantage of a clear track ahead, but behind him drivers had problems with visibility and could barely keep their car on the wet asphalt, and all drivers were seen slipping and sliding around the 2.3 km long Norisring. The usual battles unfolded at the first hairpin after the safety car had left the track, Oliver Jarvis (Audi Sport team Abt) became the first victim after Miguel Molina (Audi Sport Team Abt Junior) braked too late, hit Jarvis from behind and the Briton spun around, losing a lot of positions in the process.
Meanwhile Spengler and Paffett managed to get away from the rest, behind the leading duo Green and Ekstrom were dicing for third position, and were closely followed by Schumacher and Timo Scheider (Audi Sport Team Abt), who already had passed Engel earlier. German Tomczyk made a great start from tenth on the grid, and passed several cars immediately after the safety car had left the track. It wasn’t long before he arrived at the tail of Engel, and the pair began a battle for seventh place. Tomczyk finally passed Engel on lap 11 after the Mercedes driver braked too late for the Dutzendteich, and the yellow Audi of Tomczyk could easily slip past.
The rain seemed to ease off a little, but it was still very slippery and certainly not the right conditions to switch from full wets to intermediates. Mike Rockenfeller (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) had by then moved on to 15th place, and was chased by Jarvis who was in 16th after his collision with Molina. It wasn’t a good race for the German who made his return after his accident at Le Mans, he would eventually finish in 14th place, 21 seconds behind Spengler.
Rockenfeller about his difficult come-back, “In some of the phases our lap times were pretty good. But the rest of the time I was just part of the pack and couldn’t achieve anything. That was disappointing here. We’ve got to close the book on it now. The Norisring is over and we’re concentrating on the next race.”
David Coulthard also had a great start, after 14 laps the Scot was dueling with Spaniard Molina for 10th place. On lap 15 Paffett ran wide at the Scholler S chicane, and hit the wall hard. It looked like a mechanical failure, as the Briton apparently could not steer into the corner and instead went straight into the wall. He was unhurt, but his car was in a dangerous position, and marshals frantically tried to tow away the stranded Mercedes, much to the despair of Paffett, who was not happy with the actions of the marshals, as they further damaged his car.
A disappointed Paffett reported, “At turn three, I turned the steering wheel as usual, but the car didn’t respond – I didn’t make the turn and continued straight on into the wall. It’s too bad because, starting from second place, we could have had a good result today.”
After 20 laps, Spengler was still leading, but after Paffetts crash, Green had inherited second position, and was followed by Ekstrom, Schumacher, Scheider and Tomczyk. Ekstrom was faster than Green but the Swede could not find a place where he could attack Green. Even when Green ran wide at the first hairpin, Ekstrom was just a little bit too far behind him to take over his second place and the pair continued their battle.
Around lap 23 it was time for the first pit stops, while Tomczyk, who is always fast in the rain, had come very close to Scheider and tried everything in the book to get past him. Coulthard had worked his way up to eighth position, but the real fight was now between Ekstrom and Green.
Ekstrom pushed very hard, got next to Green several times, but the Briton defended his position well, the result of this battle was that both now came closer to Spengler, who was still leading the race. The Norisring started to dry out a little, and Schumacher set the fastest time on lap 30. Spengler started to get problems with his tyres, and Green, who was still chased by Ekstrom, now became visible in Spengler’s rearview mirrors. The order remained the same, Spengler was leading, and was followed by Green, Ekstrom, Schumacher, Scheider and Tomczyk.
On lap 40 it started to rain even harder, and the top-nine drivers still hadn’t made their first pit stop. Further back the field there was an interesting battle between Engel and Edoardo Mortara (Audi Sport team Rosberg), both were banging wheels for several laps, and both changed position several times. Mortara would finish in fifth position, Engel in ninth.
But at the front of the field it now became clear it was time to pit, as the old wet tyres were now beginning to lose grip. Scheider was the first one to pit, and was one lap later followed by Spengler, who had a small problem during his stop, but in the end didn’t lose too much time.
Green and Ekstrom now were the ones to watch, Ekstrom slowly became impatient and banged doors with Green to let him know he now really wanted to pass the Briton. But Green remained determined and defended his position until Ekstrom finally had enough of it and on lap 46 simply pushed him over to the side to take over second place. Ekstrom didn’t enjoy his victory over Green very long, a few laps later he braked too late and Green again passed him and took his second position back.
Behind the two Schumacher now came in for new tyres, and at the same time Green decided to pit as well. As Spengler’s pit stop had taken a little bit longer, the big question now was: can Green pit and rejoin the race ahead of Spengler? But Green’s stop wasn’t really any better than Spengler’s and Green joined the race again behind the Canadian. But there was one man who hadn’t made a stop yet, Tomczyk, and the German was now leading the race.
On lap 49 he decided to stop, and his team and pit crew did a great job and Tomczyk rejoined the race in a fantastic fourth position behind Ekstrom. The conditions were still very treacherous, and all drivers ran wide or missed their braking point from time to time, but at least it was great racing.
Around Lap 53 it was time for the second round of pit stops, this time Spengler was the first to dive into the pit lane, but on his could tyres almost flew off the track when he exited the pit lane, but rejoins in fifth position. Green was the second to pit and rejoined in sixth position, behind Spengler, but ahead of Tomczyk and Scheider.
After almost all drivers had made their second stop, the rain again intensified, Ekstrom had problems keeping his car on the track, and Spengler reported to his team conditions on track were now too dangerous. The race marshals probably heard him, and decided to send the safety car out again to neutralize the race. Just before the safety car came out, Schumacher and Mortara made a quick dash for their final stop, and were lucky they could rejoin the race before the lights at the pit lane exit turned to red.
Not much had changed, Spengler was still leading the race, but now behind the safety car, and he was followed by Green, Tomczyk -- who had held on to his third place thanks to an excellent strategy and a great second stop, Scheider, Mortara, Schumacher, Ekstrom and Coulthard, who recorded his best DTM finish ever.
The Scot about his first points score, “I’m very happy to have scored my first point of the season. The decision to call off the race was the right one, because we just couldn’t see anything out on track.”
Race control then decided to red flag the race, there was not enough time left to finish the remaining 18 laps anyway, and with three-quarters of the race distance already completed, all drivers were rewarded full points. It was the right decision, the conditions were by then atrocious and continuing the race would have been irresponsible.
Thus Spengler won another DTM race, Green took second place on the podium, and a very happy Tomczyk, who had started as tenth on the grid, took a very well deserved third place, thus keeping his championship hopes alive.
Green about his second place, “Today was a very difficult race because of the rain. Unfortunately, a fourth win at the Norisring wasn’t possible, but I'm happy with second place. I'm getting to grips with my car better race by race. That's good for me, for Mercedes-Benz and for the championship.”
And third place winner Tomczyl was certainly happy with his race, “"Boy was that wet! And my car was simply superb - as the times have shown. When the pit stops started I didn’t even know which position I was on. The water spray was so heavy that I simply drove my laps.”
Norbert Haug, Vice-President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport was happy after another win for Mercedes, “Today is 3rd July, so it couldn’t be more appropriate for Bruno Spengler to secure his third victory at the Norisring. We’re leading the championship again and have taken our ninth win in a row here in Nuremberg... it’s fantastic.” And he added, “Jamie Green's second place only makes our success more complete. After a one-two in qualifying yesterday, we’ve achieved a one-two in the race as well.”
Head of Audi Motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, ”Overall, it was a good race for us. We chose an aggressive strategy. It worked out particularly in Martin’s (Tomczyk) case. You could see that we were able to show a good performance in the rain. If the race had lasted a few laps longer we could have achieved even more.” But he agreed the decision to stop the race was correct, It was absolutely right to deploy the safety car in the heavy rain - it would have been too dangerous otherwise.”
After five rounds Spengler is leading the championship with 39 points, Tomczyk is second with 36 points, followed by Scheider (24), Green (21), Schumacher (17), and Rockenfeller completes the top six with 14 points. Next race, round six of the DTM Championship will be on August 7 at the German Nurburgring.