The long awaited return was finally over on the 11th and 12th August as Brands Hatch was booming again to the sights and sounds of Audi, Mercedes and BMW. Yes, the DTM was back in the UK after a five year absence and in a year where Mercedes are staying a farewell and venturing towards Formula E, Brands Hatch would spice up the entertainment by throwing the prestigious heavyweights of the German touring cars onto the legendary Grand Prix circuit for first time. The Indy circuit had usually been the home of the DTM in years gone by but for 2018, the challenges of the Grand Prix circuit would finally allow the manufactures to be pushed to the limits and show what the DTM has to offer, likely hitting 150+mph exiting Surtees on the GP loop!. Grown from the good old days of Super-Touring; Audi, Mercedes and BMW has pushed the boundaries and made the DTM the world’s fastest and most technologically advanced tin-top racing series on the planet, putting the DTM on par with F1 and FIA WEC for technology under the shells of road going saloons, such as the RS 5, C-Class and M4. The DTM has the added bonus of housing some of the best driving talents to tackle the Motorsport ladder, including former Force India F1 driver and past DTM champion Paul Di Resta, former F1 driver Timo Glock, reigning DTM Champion Rene Rast and multiple DTM and FIA World Rallycross Champion Mattias Ekstrom. A fan favourite at Brands Hatch is local lad Gary Paffett who has been a regular front runner at Mercedes, including Champion back in 2005. As the series approached Brands Hatch, it was Gary who had been hitting the headlines, taking Mercedes to the top of the drivers’ standings in their final season. Taking three victories from eight races (Hockenheim, Eurospeedway Lausitz and Zandvoort) Paffett had been in control, but was under huge pressure from fellow manufacture driver and countryman Paul Di Resta. The gap between the two after the latest round at Zandvoort was just thirteen points. There would likely be titanic battles between the two Brits and around Brands Hatch both have success in DTM, more recently Paffett in 2012, but Di Resta is the most recent former Champion between the two, taking the crown in 2010. Trying to break Mercedes’ stranglehold over the championship coming to Brands Hatch was German Timo Glock, lying on 101 points. BMW had so far had a difficult year in DTM compared to Mercedes but with one win to Glock’s name and a couple of podiums, Glock were still a title challenge with five rounds on the horizon. Glock would be backed up in his fight against the Mercedes duo by team mate Marco Wittmann, who is searching for his third DTM title, last taking the crown in 2016. Wittman is a two time race winner in 2018 a sat three points adrift of Glock on 98. Entering Brands Hatch the top four were separated by forty-points and whilst there is plenty left to play for, Audi could not be forgotten about this season and were certainly up for a fight to the season’s end at Hockenheim.
Mercedes Take Control in Qualifying
With the timetable split into two days with free practice, qualifying and a 55 minute plus one lap race, the first DTM qualifying on Saturday would see the drivers battling for pole position over twenty minutes and making history as the first DTM driver to claim pole on the GP circuit. Sparks would fly as drivers were lapping well under the pace times from free practice and whilst Audi and BMW had dominated earlier sessions, Mercedes fought back. Robin Frijns (Audi) and Augusto Farfus (BMW) were the drivers to watch out for when the session went green but very quickly Mercedes started to shine, with Gary Paffett leading the charge for Britain closely followed by team mates Lucas Auer and Daniel Juncadella. The best that BMW had to offer appeared to be Phillip Eng whilst Audi looked to be struggling, with only one car challenging for a top five position. As the session reached its end, Spaniard Juncadella shot to the top of times with a blistering time of 1:18.069 seconds, the fastest time of the day. Lucas Auer would make it a Mercedes one-two in their final year of DTM, the two separated by 0.092. Audi had some hope of a good result in race one as reigning champion Rene Rast would put his RS 5 onto row two, but he was the only one from the manufacture to make it into the top ten. BMW’s leading man in the session ended as Phillip Eng taking fourth spot, slightly ahead of team mate Augusto Farfus. Championship leader Gary Paffett was highest place British driver in sixth on row three and boosted his championship advantage as main rivals qualified behind, with Di Resta twelfth, but Timo Glock was just behind Paffett on row four in seventh. The rest of the top ten grid was made up of Mercedes and BMW as Mortara took eighth, double champion Marco Wittmann ninth for BMW and 2015 Champion Pascal Wehrlein tenth for Mercedes.
DTM Saturday Qualifying
- D Juncadella (No.23 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = 1:18.069s
- L Auer (No.22 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = +0.092s
- R Rast (No.33 – Audi RS 5 DTM) = +0.186s
- P Eng (No.25 – BMW M4 DTM) = +0.188s
- A Farfus (No.15 – BMW M4 DTM) = +0.296s
- G Paffett (No.2 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = +0.329s
- T Glock (No.16 – BMW M4 DTM) = +0.338s
- E Mortara (No.48 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = +0.353s
- M Wittmann (No.11 – BMW M4 DTM) = +0.374s
- P Wehrlein (No.94 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = +0.375s
Juncadella Backs Up Qualifying with Victory
The opening race of the DTM’s return to Brands Hatch got underway Saturday afternoon and after doing the hard bit of securing pole, Daniel Juncadella watched team mate Lucas Auer lead into Paddock Hill Bend when lights went green. A poor start from the Spaniard left him to deal with Rene Rast into turn one, as the Audi reigning champion slotted into second to split the Mercedes duo. Juncadella retook second at the end of lap one as Rast made a tactical move to dive for the pits first, followed by a handful of drivers from each manufacture. Drivers had thrown the race wide open with this move however on his exit from the pits, Loic Duval beached his Audi RS 5 into the gravel trap at Druids, becoming the first casualty of the weekend on the DTM’s return to the UK. With the Audi going nowhere, stewards made the decision to deploy slow zone cautions neutralising the speed of the race and closing the pits. The field tightly bunched during the slow zones and when the pits reopened on lap five, Augusto Farfus made his move as highest placed BMW driver followed by Juncadella a lap later, leaving Auer as the leading driver on track.
On lap nine Lucas made his mandatory stop and re-joined the circuit right in front of Juncadella, creating a few laps of close intense racing between the team mates. Juncadella made the most of his tyres being up to temperature to past Auer at Graham Hill Bend and once out-front, Juncadella controlled proceedings to secure overall lead on lap fifteen when all stops concluded. The two fighting after the stops allowed the top four to close right up, as Augusto Farfus closed on Auer, passing a few laps later to take second and split the team mates. Rene Rast did the best he could to try and get all three manufactures on the podium but Auer held firm to hold third.
With the top four position effectively secured when all pit stops finished, it was the battle for fifth that heated up, as championship leader Gary Paffett closed up on the tail of BMW driver Phillip Eng. Eng was struggling towards the end to maintain fifth but a superb performance of defence driver kept the Brit in sixth. The positions would remain as they were right up to the chequered flag. After leading the race during the pit stops Pascal Wehrlein would end up the race in seventh, along with Montara to complete a strong race for the Mercedes team. Marco Wittmann was the third BMW to make it into the top ten coming home ninth, ahead of Mike Rockenfeller’s Audi who finished tenth. For Rockenfeller his top ten finish was well deserved, after being involved in a titanic tussle for much of the race with Timo Glock, Robin Frijns and Jamie Green. In the early part Frijns was battling with Glock before Green involved himself moments later. The three ran bumper to bumper allowing Rockenfeller to close and within moments; Green, Glock and Rockenfeller found themselves three wide at Hawthorns in a three-wide manoeuvre, with Rockenfeller making the most of the situation. Robin Frijns eventually ran out of pace slipping behind the other Audis to twelfth with Rocky tenth, and Green eleventh.
DTM Saturday Race One Result
- D Juncadella (No.23 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = 57:15.601s
- A Farfus (No.15 – BMW M4 DTM) = +07.896s
- L Auer (No.22 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = +02.144s
- R Rast (No.33 – Audi RS 5 DTM) = +04.683s
- P Eng (No.25 – BMW M4 DTM) = +08.823s
- G Paffett (No.2 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = +00.387s
- P Wehrlein (No.94 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = +01.293s
- E Mortara (No.48 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = +02.302s
- M Wittmann (No.11 – BMW M4 DTM) = +04.111s
- M Rockenfeller (No.99 – Audi RS 5 DTM) = +01.766s
Brits Fight Back to Qualify 1-2
Conditions for the Sunday were meant to be very different than Saturday in terms of rain forecasted, but as the drivers headed to the circuit, it was very different. After the performance of Mercedes on Saturday, the manufacture were again setting the pace but surprisingly not race one winner Daniel Juncadella, who found himself off the pace and down towards the rear of the field. Juncadella would end the session fourteenth whilst team mates Paffett, Di Resta and Wehrlein were lighting up the time sheet. At the end of twenty minutes it was home town hero Gary Paffett who secured pole position for race two, only 0.073 seconds ahead of title rival Paul Di Resta. The Brits entertained the crown locking out the front row and after disaster in race one; Di Resta had given his title ambitions a boost and a chance to close the gap to Paffett in the afternoon’s race. Former champion Pascal Wehrlein completed a top-three lockout for the German manufacturer, upping his pace significantly from Saturday with a time slower than Paffett by 0.086 seconds. Joining Wehrlein on row two was the 2017 champion Rene Rast, again the highest placed Audi driver of the weekend. Audi had a bit more success in Q2 as Robin Frijns made it into the top six, only slightly slower than Lucas Auer who made it four Mercedes cars in the top five. The highest driver for BMW in Q2 was Saturday’s runner up Augusto Farfus, split from team mates Marco Wittmann and Phillip Eng by the Audi of Loic Duval. Duval had been quickest in Sunday’s earlier free practice and boosted results for Audi with three cars making it into the top ten of qualifying. In terms of other Brits on the grid, Jamie Green would end the session just outside the top ten in eleventh, looking for a better result than Saturday.
DTM Sunday Qualifying
- G Paffett (No.2 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = 1:17.948s
- Paul Di Resta (No.3 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = +0.073s
- P Wehrlein (No.94 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = +0.086s
- R Rast (No.33 – Audi RS 5 DTM) = +0.104s
- L Auer (No.22 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) =+0.187s
- Robin Frijns (No.4 – Audi RS 5 DTM) = +0.192s
- A Farfus (No.15 – BMW M4 DTM) = +0.234s
- Loic Duval (No.28 – Audi RS 5 DTM) = +0.257s
- M Wittmann (No.11 – BMW M4 DTM) = +0.296s
- P Eng (No.25 – BMW M4 DTM) = 0.356s
Di Resta Recovers Championship Challenge
In front of a British crowd and a championship on their minds, the run into Paddock Hill Bend was always going to be tight between Gary Paffett and Paul Di Resta and no one gave in. As the lights went green the two Mercedes drivers ran side by side, continuing until the exit of Druids. On the right line down to Graham Hill Bend, Di Resta propelled himself into the lead of the race, crucially ahead of championship rival Paffett. After seeing a clean move out front things behind weren’t so, as there was contact between drivers from each manufacture on the run to Surtees. Close racing was always anticipated on the opening lap and contact between Augusto Farfus (BMW), Lucas Auer (Mercedes) and Robin Frijns (Audi) resulted in Frijns kissing the barrier opposites the pits. With damage on circuit and Frijns needing to recover, the safety car was deployed and picked up Di Resta for a few laps.
When the safety car departed drivers are instructed to run two by two for a rolling start restart, putting pressure on the lead to defend. Di Resta and Paffett would again run side by side but Di Resta held on as Paffett came under pressure from team mate Pascal Wehrlein. Mercedes were holding a nice 1-2-3 but were under a watchful eye from Jamie Green, who lied fourth for Audi after moving up the order from eleventh on the grid. Strategy is key in the DTM and with drivers only requiring one pit stop, Wehrlein dived in first, releasing Paffett to maintain second as Green moved into third, creating a 1-2-3 on home soil. Green was the highest Audi on track but after Rene Rast pitted and jumped Wehrlein, he was on for a podium finish subject to a trouble free race. The continuous pit stops shook the order up on a regular basis but when drivers found themselves on cold tyres, position were harder to improve on.
When the race leader pitted, Paffett followed suit, resulting in the two entering the circuit unchanged. Green took the decision to pit later and held the race lead, but a slow time exiting the pits resulted in a drop down the order, especially as tyres hadn’t got up to the right temperature to compete against those who had already stopped. Green looked set for a top five finish but clashed with Marco Wittmann in the closing stages and the stewards handed the Brit a drive-through and therefore a top ten finish was out of the question. Back at the front Di Resta and Paffett ran bumper to bumper, but as every lap ticked by, saw Rene Rast closing. With plenty of respect for one another on circuit, the positions remained right up to the chequered flag, with the top three separated by only 1.3 seconds.
Completing the top five and well back from the top three was Pascal Wehrlein in the Mercedes, comfortably ahead of BMW’s Marco Wittman. Audi had a stronger race two than one as 2013 DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller came home sixth, keeping Phillip Eng at bay. Race one podium finishers Lucas Auer and Daniel Juncadella came home eighth and ninth with Nico Muller completing the top ten in the No.51 Audi.
DTM Sunday Race Two Result
- Paul Di Resta (No.3 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = 56:23.282s
- G Paffett (No.2 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = +1.019s
- R Rast (No.33 – Audi RS 5 DTM) = +1.376s
- P Wehrlein (No.94 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) = +11.484s
- M Wittmann (No.11 – BMW M4 DTM) = +14.312s
- M Rockenfeller (No.99 – Audi RS 5 DTM) = +14.841s
- P Eng (No.25 – BMW M4 DTM) = +17.239s
- L Auer (No.22 – Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM) =+17.972s
- D Juncadella (No.23 – Mercedes C63 AMG DTM) = +18.505
- N Muller (No.51 – Audi RS 5 DTM) = +20.798s
The DTM leaves the UK with rumours circulating that the series will continue to return to the UK in future even after Mercedes depart for Formula e. With four rounds remaining and the next stop being Misano in Italy on the 25th and 26th August, Mercedes are the team to beat as four drivers take up positions within the top five. Gary Paffett continues to hold top on 177 points and after disaster for Di Resta in race one, has increased his point’s margin to twenty-points in the battle between former champions. Di Resta’s win in race two kept him comfortable second and whilst Timo Glock drops out of top three to sixth, Marco Wittman takes up the challenge for BMW, third on 110 points and level with Mercedes’ Lucas Auer. Edoardo Mortara holds the final spot in the top five and in contention to close on a podium finish on 101 points, nine adrift of Wittman and Auer. Whilst BMW are prepared to take the fight to Mercedes in locking out the top three in the championship and fight for the team’s title, Audi on the other hand move away from Brands Hatch off the back of another nightmare. Rene Rast is currently the highest scoring driver for the team with four rounds left, lying ninth in the championship on 77 points with only one win to his name. Audi also are struggling in the teams title race, with Rene Rast’s Team Rosberg sixth, 173 points behind Gary Paffett’s Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Petronas team which includes Pascal Wehrlein.
To find out latest news and race results of the DTM across Europe, please visit www.dtm.com.
For all the photos from the action on Saturday including the Audi Sport Seyffarth R8 LMS Cup and MINI Challenge JCW, please click here.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.