Audi Sport Dominates At Zolder Round Of DTM Series

1-2 victories were attained by Audi Sport on an eventful Sunday race.  

Sunday’s eventful round of the DTM series held at the Zolder circuit in Belgium proved not only to be an exciting spectacle to watch, but also ultimately satisfying for Audi Sport. René Rast claimed the top step of the podium for Audi Sport Team Rosberg last weekend, while Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline clinches the Teams’ Championship with four races to go. 

Despite an engine fire caused by a deflagration nearly ending the race for Rast before it even started, the title contender had managed a lightning start off the line. Overtaking the two BMWs on the front row and jumping into the lead after the first corner on lap 1. 

The team’s decision to pit Rast on lap 12 of the race proved to be the winning strategy too. As a lap later, Robin Frijns hit a wet patch on the pit exit and subsequently crashed into the guard rails. This meant the yellow flags were waved and the safety car was deployed. Putting everyone, including championship leader Nico Müller out of contention in this race. 

Müller, racing for Audi Sport Team ABT Sportsline ended up finishing in 9th place. Shrinking the gap between Müller and Rast to just 10 points between them in the driver’s championship standings, with only four races to go. Despite the lacklustre performance for the team during this race however, they did manage to secure the Teams’ Championship at this Zolder race, thanks to performing remarkably all year long. 

Claiming the second step of the podium was another Audi Sport team, this time Mike Rockenfeller from Audi Sport Team Phoenix. Answering the same strategy call as Rast and pitting before the yellow flags were waved handed Rockenfeller his best result of the season thus far, not to mention a 1-2 for Audi Sport on the podium at Zolder. 

Customer team WRT Audi Sport also managed to bag a handful of points during this eventful race, with all three cars of the Belgian team finishing in the points. Fabio Scherer, Harrison Newey and Ferdinand Habsburg in fifth, sixth and seventh respectively in the team’s home race last weekend. 

Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass was altogether pleased with the race results, stating that a 1-2 at Zolder was a good result, despite not having any Audis on the front row. A first after 20 pole positions, he added. He hopes however that the teams would continue to improve to as he ‘saw a bit too many mistakes in the Audi rows today’. 

The next round of the DTM championship will continue at Zolder this coming weekend, before moving on to Hockenheim, Germany for the series finale. Based on points however, the driver’s title fight will probably be decided next week. With the top three drivers being separated by only a thin margin, it is anyone’s guess as to who will clinch the 2020 DTM driver’s title. So perhaps tune in to find out, or watch this space!

PRESS RELEASE: René Rast from Audi Sport Team Rosberg makes the DTM exciting: after his commanding victory on Saturday, the title defender also won Sunday’s race at Zolder (Belgium) and is now just ten points behind championship leader Nico Müller. Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline nevertheless secured the Teams’ Championship early. 

On the way to his fourth victory of the season, Rast showed strong nerves and had the necessary bit of luck. Before the race, flames suddenly burst from the engine compartment of his Audi RS 5 DTM due to a deflagration. Rast was nevertheless able to take part in the race and made a lightning start from the second row of the grid: Even before the first corner he had overtaken the two BMWs that had started in front of him. His team’s decision to bring Rast to the pits on lap twelve for the tire chance proved to be spot on: just one lap later, the safety car was deployed. This meant that all those drivers who had not yet pitted at that time – including championship leader Nico Müller – where out of contention.

“This was a crazy race in which many things happened,” said Rast. “The fire on the starting grid. At the start from three to one even before the first corner. The safety car. We made the right decisions today and had a perfect car again. I’ve always said that one or two races can decide everything and things can turn around very quickly again. You saw today what can happen.”

It’s almost curious that the safety car was caused by one of his two rivals for the title. Robin Frijns had fought his way up from eighth on the grid to third in the early stages when he hit a wet patch on the pit lane exit after his pit stop and crashed into the guard rails. “This was all my own fault, which I feel very sorry for myself and especially for my team,” said Frijns. “The retirement hurts, but over 100 points are still awarded – anything is still possible.”

The safety car also deprived his team mate Nico Müller of valuable points. “René and Mike (Rockenfeller) got the pit board even before the yellow flags were out,” said Müller after his disappointing ninth place. “The two were lucky to stop before the safety car. Unfortunately, this time not everyone in the field got the chance to make their pit stops before the safety car was deployed. That cost me at least 13 points today and may decide the championship.”

The mood in Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline was correspondingly subdued despite clinching the Teams’ Championship early. “That was a tough day for us, and we are very disappointed today,” said team director Thomas Biermaier. “Nevertheless, I’m very proud that we won the Teams’ Championship four races before the end. The team has shown a great performance all year long. And everyone who knows us knows: we will come back strong.”

In the shadow of the dramatic title fight, Mike Rockenfeller from Audi Sport Team Phoenix clinched his best result of the season so far in second. “A second place is good and I’m happy about the trophy that I can take home to my children,” said “Rocky”. “Of course, it was crucial today to get to the pits before the safety car. We did everything right, thanks to my team. I’m not quite happy that I couldn’t keep up with René. I think we know where we need to improve and hope to be closer to him next weekend.”

Huge cheers also in the customer team WRT Team Audi Sport: With Fabio Scherer, Harrison Newey and Ferdinand Habsburg in fifth, sixth and seventh, the Belgian team scored points with all three cars at their home race at Zolder.

Loïc Duval and Jamie Green were left without points in 13th and 15th, while Duval was penalized for an “unsafe release” at the pit stop. Green had to come to the pits twice because he made his first tire change immediately after the restart. In this case, the stop does not count as a mandatory stop.

“This was another successful day for Audi today,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass. “A 1-2 victory is a very good result. Especially after we had no car on the front row of the grid for the first time in a long time. After 20 pole positions in a row, we didn’t manage that today. Nevertheless, to achieve a 1-2 victory is great. But overall I’m not one hundred percent satisfied. I saw a bit too many mistakes in the Audi rows today – we have to improve that before the next race.”

Next weekend, two more DTM races are on the agenda at Zolder. However, the Drivers’ Championship will probably not be decided before the finale at Hockenheim. With 259 points, Nico Müller is just ahead of René Rast (249) and Robin Frijns (243).

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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