Spengler gives BMW second win of the season at the Nurburgring
By Berthold Bouman
Again a very hot day at the Nurburgring for round six of the German DTM championship, with ambient temperatures of 34 degrees Celsius and a track temperature of 50 degrees. Nevertheless some 60,000 spectators turned up at the Nurburgring to watch the race, and they would not be disappointed as there was plenty of action on track.
Pole-sitter Bruno Spengler (BMW Team Schnitzer) was away fastest at the start of the race, while Filipe Albuquerque (Audi Sport Team Rosberg) almost stalled his engine and made the worst start of his DTM career and thus was tenth after he had completed his first lap.
But Gary Paffett (Mercedes Team HWA) who is the current championship leader, made the best start and rocketed from 11th to seventh place, while Martin Tomczyk (BMW Team RMG), due to Albuquerque’s bad start, moved up to fourth place, while Jamie Green (Mercedes Team HWA) was the fastest Mercedes driver in fifth place.
At the back of the field Christian Vietoris (Mercedes Team HWA) and Andy Priaulx (BMW Team RBM) collided but both drivers were able to continue, but lost a lot of places. After five laps the order was: Spengler, Edoardo Mortara (Audi Sport Team Rosberg), Mike Rockenfeller (Audi Sport Team Phoenix Racing), Tomczyk, Green, Robert Wickens (Mercedes Team Mucke Motorsport), Paffett and Timo Scheider (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) was eighth.
Meanwhile, Tomczyk came closer to Rockenfeller, only a few tenths of a second separated the pair. No team orders at this stage of the race for Green or Wickens as Paffett was right behind his two marque colleagues. At the front Spengler was still comfortably leading the race with Mortara 2.6 seconds behind him.
Roberto Merhi (Mercedes Team Persson Motorsport) was the first to retire from the race, and after ten laps parked his car in the Mercedes garage. The first pit stop window was between lap 12 and 37, first in were Paffett, Tomczyk, Scheider and Adrien Tambay (Audi Sport Team Abt). Due to the heat the tyres degraded fast and not much later the majority had already made their first pit stop.
It was a crucial pit stop for Tomczyk, as he came back on track right behind Rockenfeller, but the 2011 DTM champion could not find his way past the yellow Audi. The next lap Tomczyk tried his luck again, and this time he passed Rockenfeller without a problem.
David Coulthard (Mercedes Team Mucke Motorsport) ran wide and ploughed through the grass and also took out two polystyrene advertising boards, but he was able to get his car in reverse and could continue his race.
Paffett was lucky as Mercedes told Wickens to let the Briton past and he then was on his way to his compatriot Green who was fifth at the time. While Tomczyk was getting away from Rockenfeller, Green was now closing in on the yellow Audi of the German, followed by his Mercedes colleagues Paffett and Wickens.
But Green still had to make his first stop, and when he did, Paffett took over his fifth position, and now Paffett was chasing Rockenfeller. After 20 of 49 laps the order was: Spengler, Mortara, Tomczyk, Rockenfeller, Paffett, Wickens, Scheider and Augusto Farfus (BMW Team RBM) was eighth.
Further down the order there was an unexpected fight for 12th place as Rahel Frey (Audi Sport Team Abt) was challenging Ralf Schumacher (Mercedes Team HWA), but she was not able to get past him.
Rockenfeller in fourth place complained over the radio he had braking problems and his team advised him to change the brake balance a bit. At the same time Spengler had extended his lead to 3.5 seconds but complained he had problems with the tyre pressures, but his team assured him everything was okay.
By then it was time for the second round of pit stops and Paffett and Tomczyk pitted at the same time, but Tomczyk was first to emerge from the pit lane, and at the same time got ahead of Green who already had made his second stop, while Paffett, who had a little problem during his stop, was then stuck behind Green again.
Next were Mortara and Wickens, they had a flawless stop, Spengler made his stop and had no problem at all to keep the lead. Only one driver still had to pit: Frey in the Audi, who was in fourth place, the question was of course how many places she would lose during her stop. She made her stop on the 31st lap and rejoined the race in a very disappointing 14th place.
After 32 laps Spengler was still leading, and was followed by Mortara, Tomczyk, Green, Rockenfeller, Paffett, Wickens and Albuquerque. Mattias Ekstrom (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) in 12th place was dicing for position with Dirk Werner (BMW Team Schnitzer), and one lap later the Swede took over 11th place from the German.
It was a difficult and frustrating race for Paffett, who was in sixth place at the time, behind Green and Rockenfeller. The same could be said of Tomczyk who was too far behind Mortara to challenge him during the closing stages of the race.
Rockenfeller though, was closing in on Green, but the German still had problems with his brakes. Further back Frey and Schumacher were again dicing for positions, this time for 13th place, Frey attacked him and got next to him, but could not pass the Mercedes. Frey was not happy as she complained over the radio Schumacher was blocking her.
At the front Paffett had closed in on Rockenfeller, who in his turn was just a few tenths of a second behind Green in fourth place. But all eyes were still on Frey and Schumacher, the German had to constantly check his mirrors at every turn to see where the Swiss driver was. She tried again at Turn One but ended up at the wrong side of the track at Turn Two and Schumacher was still ahead of her, and she would also finish behind him.
Just five laps to go and Paffett was still in sixth place, still behind Rockenfeller. He tried to push Rockenfeller a bit harder, but almost lost it himself at the fifth turn; he then backed off a bit and settled for sixth place.
At the front, Spengler was only one lap shy of the finish, and he indeed crossed the finish line in first place, followed by Mortara, Tomczyk, Green, Rockenfeller, Paffett, Wickens and Albuquerque.
Two BMW’s in the top three, and Spengler was of course happy with his win, “I wake up every morning and think about how I can win the next race. That is what I live for – my passion – and then I actually win on this weekend, which is so special for BMW.
“My car was fantastic today. I had to push unbelievably hard, particularly in the first stint, as the opposition really applied pressure. However, I was able to defend my lead. I’d like to say a big thank you to BMW Team Schnitzer. The team once again showed what it is capable of this weekend.”
Tomczyk was proud to take third place, “To move up from fifth to third in the race is simply excellent. Everything came together. The weekend did not begin so well for us. However, everyone in the BMW team gave their all to make the car faster on this track. We achieved that very well. I am very happy with our performance here and hope we can cause a few more surprises.”
Paffett is still leading the championship with 103 points, followed by Spengler who moved up to second place with 83 points, and Green is now third with 81 points. Next race is already next weekend, at the Dutch seaside Zandvoort circuit.