Breath-taking position fights, hot bumper-to-bumper duels, but some penalties as well: the DTM season at the Nürburgring was quite lively. Eventually, the spectators in the packed grandstands particularly cheered for Kelvin van der Linde. Having started from pole position, the South African claimed his third win of the season in an impressive manner with the ABT Sportsline Audi and extended his lead in the drivers’ standings. As the best-placed guest driver, Luca Stolz (GER) with the Mercedes-AMG of the Toksport WRT team secured second place on the podium, ahead of Swiss Philip Ellis with the WINWARD Mercedes-AMG. In the evening, Luca Stolz then had his second place taken away as he was given a 30-second time penalty. During his pit stop, there had been an incident with a mechanic of the GruppeM Racing team. While approaching his pit position, he had hit a mechanic of the other team. As Luca Stolz, being a guest driver, isn’t eligible to score points anyway, local hero Mike Rockenfeller, born in Neuwied and initially classified fourth, had already been able to add 15 points to his DTM tally.
In the spectacular DTM race at the Nürburgring, there were 23 cars on the grid for the first time, the highest number in many years. Moreover, Porsche made its début in DTM, but Michael Ammermüller already had to retire from the race with his SSR Performance 911 following the opening lap
“I am enjoying every second this season. It has taken me so long to finally make it into DTM. I kept knocking on the door at Audi asking whether they had a DTM seat available for me. Now, I am even happier to be racing against these strong guys”, a buoyant Kelvin van der Linde said. At the Nürburgring, the 25-year-old from South Africa even pulled off a hattrick: he claimed pole position, posted the fastest lap time of the race and secured victory. “It was an intense race. At the start and the restart, I was able to stay in front and keep the lead. Only after the tyre change, I had to fight hard. There was some contact, too, there are some hard battles out there. I kept it cool and remained calm.” Van der Linde extended his points’ lead to 129 points, Maximilian Götz (GER), who scored twelve points on Saturday, bringing his total to 84, has now moved up into second while Liam Lawson (Red Bull Ferrari, AF Corse) didn’t score and dropped back to third in the standings (80).
Once again, the moment of the start was a breath-taking affair for drivers and fans in equal measure. In close formation, 23 race cars were roaring down the main straight, the highest number in years. Ellis or van der Linde – who would be first going into the tight right-hand corner? Kelvin van der Linde had the better line and defended his pole position against Ellis’s white-and-blue WINWARD Mercedes. Until then, everything went smoothly, but at the short loop of the sprint circuit, Maximilian Buhk (GER) was tapped into a spin with the Mücke Mercedes-AMG, which prompted a safety car intervention. Next to Buhk, Christopher Haase (GER) with the Rosberg Audi and Michael Ammermüller were also among the victims of the opening lap and retired early. The restart at the end of lap three also was executed in spectacular double-file formation, much to the delight of the fans in the grandstands and in front of the screens all over the world. Again, van der Linde defended the lead while the two Mercedes-AMGs with Ellis and Stolz battled behind him.
The race was a lively affair throughout with numerous battles in the entire field and with hard overtaking manoeuvres. Due to varying strategies for the mandatory pit stops, a handful of drivers racked up laps in the lead. Local hero Mike Rockenfeller (GER) led the field for the longest time with the ABT Audi as he procrastinated his pit stop as long as he could. Whether it was Philip Ellis, Alex Albon and Luca Stolz battling for the podium positions or Liam Lawson, Markus Winkelhock and Daniel Juncadella fighting for points, it was racing at its best. Winkelhock, who was replacing Sophia Flörsch in the ABT Audi with Space Drive steering as the latter had clashing commitments, eventually incurred a drive-through penalty as he had caused a spin for the Lawson Ferrari.
After Rockenfeller had been the last to come in for fresh tyres after 31 laps, the road was clear for his teammate Kelvin van der Linde to collect his third win of the season. Guest driver Luca Stolz, whose team is located in Quiddelbach in the middle of the legendary Nordschleife, had worked his way up to second. “The fights today were great and I hope that wasn’t our last DTM race,” Stolz said. A fourth-place finish for Rockenfeller, who is known as a ‘tyre whisperer’ anyway, reflected how much he had saved his tyres while still being able to put in good lap times. His unusual strategy paid off.
Just before the start of the race, all the DTM drivers and team principals had assembled in front of the grandstand at the end of the start and finish straight. With a “Thank you to everybody who has helped out” banner and a minute of silence, drivers, team principals and spectators remembered the victims of the flooding disaster on 14 and 15 July, especially in the Ahr valley close to the Nürburgring.
Spectacular qualifying: 22 cars within one second, third pole for Kelvin van der Linde
What the 23-strong field presented in qualifying on Saturday was outright spectacular. It was close, closer, super close: 22 cars were within less than one second. There was only one who was in control, and that happened to be the points’ leader. Kelvin van der Linde put in a perfect lap with the ABT Audi and had a comparatively large margin of over two tenths of a second. Philip Ellis (SUI) with the WINWARD Mercedes and Marco Wittmann (GER) with the Walkenhorst BMW followed in second and third place. As a result, there were three different brands in the first three grid positions. The best guest driver in qualifying was Luca Stolz in fifth with the Toksport Mercedes while Porsche only ended up 20th upon its DTM début with Michael Ammermüller (GER/SSR Performance).
On Sunday, the eighth of this season’s 16 races will be held at the Nürburgring. Who will become ‘half-time champion’ of the 2021 DTM? This question will be answered from 1.30pm onwards. SAT.1 is broadcasting live from 1pm.