DTM: Mortara wins chaotic race at Zandvoort for Audi
By Berthold Bouman
Again a very wet day at the Dutch Zandvoort circuit, host of the seventh round of the German DTM Championship. Dark clouds surrounded the circuit, and it started to rain just ahead of the start, but all drivers started the race on the Hankook slicks.
Pole-sitter Timo Scheider (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) was happy to be back at the very front of the start grid, but certainly not happy with his start as the poor German’s Audi didn’t move one inch when the lights turned to green, he was 19th after the first lap. He was in fact lucky no one slammed into the back of his stationary Audi.
More casualties on the first lap, as Christian Vietoris (Mercedes Team HWA) collided with Robert Wickens (Mercedes Team Mucke Motorsport) and the race was over for the German because his rear suspension was badly damaged. Rahel Frey (Audi Sport Team Abt) hit the stricken car of Wickens and she was also out of the race. Miguel Molina’s car (Audi Sport Team Phoenix Racing) was also towed away as he had hit Wickens during the start, ran wide at the Tarzan corner and got stuck in the gravel trap. The Safety Car came out and the race was neutralized.
When the Safety Car went in again after three laps, Mike Rockenfeller (Audi Sport Team Phoenix Racing) was leading the race, followed by Edoardo Mortara (Audi Sport Team Rosberg), Mattias Ekstrom (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline), Jamie Green (Mercedes Team HWA) and Filipe Albuquerque (Audi Sport Team Rosberg), while Gary Paffett (Mercedes Team HWA) was already in sixth place. More bad luck for Scheider, he almost lost his damaged engine cover and had to pit to fix the problem.
A bit further down the field Adrien Tambay (Audi Sport Team Abt) and Martin Tomczyk (BMW Team RMG) were fighting for seventh place, the pair made contact several times but the Frenchman kept his foot down and managed to keep the experienced DTM champion behind him. Bruno Spengler’s (BMW Team Schnitzer) mission was simple: he had to grab as many points as he could to keep in touch with championship leader Paffett, and the Canadian was at that time already in 11th place.
More bad luck for Scheider, on the start finish straight his new engine cover literally disintegrated and carbon parts littered the track, and the Safety Car came out again. Scheider was out of the race, and had to walk back to the Audi garage. “Sh*t happens,” was all the very disappointed Audi driver could say.
Thus there were only 17 cars left when the Safety Car pulled into the pit lane again on lap ten, Paffett immediately tried to pass Albuquerque, they collided but the Portuguese driver stayed in fifth position.
More surprises, Tomczyk, Tambay, Paffett, Ekstrom and Mortara already pitted on lap 11, Tomczyk had hoped he could pass Tambay during his stop, but his pit crew made a mess of his stop and he was again behind Tambay when he rejoined the race.
Next to stop was Green, his crew also made a mess of his stop, and he lost seven places, and was now even behind Tomczyk and Tambay, while Paffett emerged as the winner as he was now behind Ekstrom in a virtual fourth place. Paffett then showed he was serious about winning this race, and outbraked the Swede on the run down to the Tarzan corner and got ahead of him.
Dirk Werner (BMW Team Schnitzer) and David Coulthard (Mercedes Team Mucke Motorsport) hadn’t made their first stop yet and were in first and second position, followed by Rockenfeller, Mortara, Paffett, Ekstrom, Albuquerque, Tomczyk, Tambay and Green, while Spengler was still in 11th place.
Coulthard made his first stop, but his crew forgot to properly secure the right rear wheel, he was sent off but he stopped in time while still in the pit lane, was pushed back to his pit area where mechanics finally were able to fix the problem. Of course his race was over as he now occupied 17th and last place.
After 20 laps Ekstrom, Tomczyk and Ralf Schumacher (Mercedes Team HWA) were the first to make their second and last obligatory pit stop, one lap later they were followed by Spengler, Mortara and Tambay. The number two in the championship, Spengler, rejoined in 15th place, while championship leader Paffett was in second position.
Paffett and Ekstrom were next to pit, but Ekstrom was faster and Paffett was again stuck behind the Audi. Meanwhile, Coulthard threw in the towel and slowly made his way to the pits to end his race.
Ekstrom, Paffett and Tomczyk were dicing for the virtual third position, Paffett tried again to overtake Ekstrom on the run-down to the Tarzan corner, but he didn’t get past. One lap later he tried again, this time he took the outside of the Tarzan corner, but they made contact, Paffett lost his right rear-view mirror and again was stuck behind the Swede.
After 26 laps all drivers had made their last stop, Rockenfeller was still leading followed by Mortara, Ekstrom, Paffett, Tomczyk, and Albuquerque. But it started to rain again, Paffett was hit from behind by Tomczyk who missed his braking point at the Tarzan corner, spun and fell back to 12th place.
Others made good use of the confusion, Spengler moved up to sixth place, while Green moved up to fifth place. Tomczyk had damaged his car when he hit Paffett, and for him the race was also over.
And thus, with 14 laps to go, there were 15 cars left on track, and Rockenfeller, Mortara and Ekstrom were leading. Mortara was faster than Rockenfeller and shouted over the radio he wanted to get past the German in the other Audi. Rockenfeller received a similar message over the radio as Felipe Massa in Formula One: “Mortara is much faster, he is really quick!”
Despite his team’s ‘advice’, Rockenfeller didn’t want to give up the lead, but Mortara was indeed very fast and overtook him on the outside of the Tarzan corner. With now 10 laps to go, Mortara was leading, followed by Rockenfeller who again came closer, Ekstrom, Green, Tambay and Spengler, while Paffett was tenth.
The track again dried out as the rain had stopped, Albuquerque was next to leave the race and he duly parked his car in the garage. Rockenfeller, now on a dry track, came closer and closer to Mortara again, who now had to defend his leading position.
Paffett meanwhile was fighting with Augusto Farfus (BMW Team RBM), he passed him but Farfus was not happy and complained he was pushed by the Briton. The battle at the front continued, but it was Mortara who crossed the finish line first, Rockenfeller was second and Ekstrom third.
Mortara scored his second DTM win and was very happy, and commented, “It was incredible. I was so motivated and wanted to squeeze out the maximum at all cost. I had a good start and took a few risks on the first laps and when rain was setting in. The outcome could also have been different, though. But the risk paid off and we stayed on track. A one-two-three victory for Audi and my second success for Audi Sport Team Rosberg – for me, a dream has come true today.”
His marque colleague Rockenfeller had to admit defeat, “I had a good start. It was a difficult race but in most conditions I was able to control the race. When it started raining again I was a bit too cautious and ‘Edo’ [Mortara] took advantage of that. In second place, he was able to take a little more of a risk. Afterwards, in dry conditions, I was a bit faster but it wasn’t enough to overtake him again.”
Green was fourth, Spengler sixth and Paffett seventh. Spengler finished ahead of Paffett but nevertheless lost his second place in the championship. Paffett is leading the DTM championship with 109 points, Green is second with 93 points and Spengler is third with 91 points. Mortara moved up to fourth place with 74 points, Tomczyk and Rockenfeller are fifth and sixth with 69 and 67 points.
Spengler was pleased to have limited the damage after his 18th qualifying place yesterday, “After the difficult qualifying, the race could hardly have gone better for me. Sixth feels like a podium. My good start was key to this. I made up a lot of positions in the first few corners. Overall it was a tough race for me. The rain did not make it any easier. I had to take big risks. Before the race I would have been happy to somehow finish in the points. To come away with sixth place is fantastic!”
Championship leader Paffett commented after the race, “Seventh place is not the outcome I had planned for this weekend at Zandvoort. I was extremely disappointed after the contact with Martin Tomczyk and the subsequent incident when I spun, but at least we did a little catching up in the closing stages to limit the damage. Finishing ahead of Jamie in the drivers’ standings was one of the weekend’s more positive aspects, as was our good race pace.”
Next race, the eighth in the DTM championship, is on September 9, at the German Oschersleben circuit.