Jack Aitken wins, Rast and Wittmann catch up

The prancing horse triumphs on the North Sea coast: Jack Aitken won the first DTM race this weekend in Zandvoort. The Emil Frey Ferrari driver beat Rene Rast in the Schubert BMW from pole. Arjun Maini (HRT Mercedes) completed the podium after starting from third position.

For Aitken, it is the third victory in his 19th start in the traditional series. Aitken also achieved the other two victories from pole. In addition, the one-time Formula 1 starter is the 18th different winner of the 25th DTM race in Zandvoort. Rast is on a DTM podium for the 51st time and for the first time in 2024. For the Indian Maini, it is only the second podium success in the DTM and the first since 2021.

Rast cannot pose a threat to Aitken

Aitken led the race confidently from the start. After just one lap, the Brit had put a one-second gap on Clemens Schmid (Dörr-McLaren), who had started from second place. Aitken then continued to extend his lead and only gave it up briefly after his pit stop. Aitken was also able to fend off an interim offensive from Rast and crossed the finish line 2.924 seconds ahead of the three-time DTM champion.

Rast had steadily worked his way forward after starting from P7. Before his mandatory pit stop, the 37-year-old was in fourth place and overtook Schmid in the pits and then Maini on the track. Schmid, meanwhile, suffered from extremely weak pit stops by his team, newcomer Dörr Motorsport, compared to the competition, and also lost P3 to Maini in the pits.

Wittmann with strong comeback

Lucas Auer (Winward-Mercedes) completed the top five ahead of Sheldon van der Linde and Marco Wittmann in the other two Schubert-BMWs. The racing team’s three BMW M4 GT3s showed a strong performance in the race after the cars had received more boost overnight through a balance of performance adjustment.

The big winner of the race was Wittmann: The two-time DTM champion worked his way up from 17th place on the grid to 11th place before the pit stops and overtook Mirko Bortolotti, Nicki Thiim and Ricardo Feller within a very short space of time in the last third of the race.

For Feller, the best-placed Audi driver in eighth place, the race only went backwards after Audi had to add 15 kilograms overnight. After starting from fourth place, the Swiss driver was unable to keep up with the pace of the leaders early on and was gradually passed by. In the end, he saved eighth place from Bortolotti (SSR-Lamborghini), who lost pace in the meantime and suspected a slow puncture.

Nicki Thiim gives away positions shortly before the end

Tenth place went to Luca Stolz (HRT-Mercedes), who was given a place by Bortolotti’s team-mate Nicki Thiim five minutes before the end. Thiim, lying in 9th place, came off the track in the steep curve before the start/finish line and slid through the gravel. This meant that the Dane not only lost positions to Bortolotti and Stolz, but also to Maro Engel (Winward-Mercedes), who gained seven places compared to his starting position, and Manthey-Porsche driver Ayhancan Güven.

However, Thiim regained twelfth place on the last lap from Güven, who had to turn into the pit lane with a problem. Kelvin van der Linde, Thomas Preining and local hero Thierry Vermeulen completed the points positions. Preining had even fallen back to last place after a disappointing qualifying in the first lap, but benefited from retirements and gained positions against Vermeulen and Ben Dörr in the second Dörr-McLaren.

Grasser-Lamborghini mechanic injured during pit stop

These failures included the two Grasser Lamborghinis. Christian Engelhart had to stop early after a tire puncture without any outside influence. Luca Engstler, on the other hand, had a scary moment during the pit stop. Due to problems with a mechanic’s hose and unfortunate circumstances, Engstler hit the mechanic in the pit. Team boss Gottfried Grasser, speaking on ProSieben’s microphone, assumed that he had broken his ankle. Sunday’s pole-setter Maximilian Paul (Paul-Lamborghini) also stopped his car after about 25 minutes.

Despite the overall disappointing performance, Kelvin van der Linde retains the lead in the championship with a five-point lead over teammate Feller. Aitken is now third, seven points behind van der Linde.

DTM Zandvoort: This is what happens next

As usual, the second DTM race of the weekend will take place on Sunday, although the starting grid has already been determined. Qualifying for the Sunday race took place yesterday. The reason for the unusual procedure at the third event of the 2024 season: Six of the 20 DTM drivers have to make an interim trip to Le Mans from Saturday to Sunday in order to take part in the official test for the 24-hour race (June 15-16) on Sunday morning. They will then fly back to Zandvoort by private plane.

To ensure that the drivers in double duty – BMW works drivers Marco Wittmann, Rene Rast and Sheldon van der Linde, Lamborghini works driver Mirko Bortolotti, Kelvin van der Linde because of his Lexus program in the WEC and Cadillac driver Jack Aitken – do not miss the qualifying on Sunday morning, the timed practice for the Sunday race was brought forward to Friday evening. The start time is also unusual: instead of the usual 1:30 p.m., the start time on Sunday is 4:30 p.m.

On pole is lone fighter Maximilian Paul from DTM newcomer Paul Motorsport. Behind him are Mirko Bortolotti (SSR-Lamborghini), the Emil Frey Ferrari duo Thierry Vermeulen and Jack Aitken as well as Arjun Maini (HRT-Mercedes) in the top five.

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