If you weren’t watching today’s DTM race, you might want to stop reading here and go watch the replay on YouTube. If you did, then you will have seen what was maybe the move of the year by Canadian Robert Wickens, en route to his first DTM win for Mercedes Benz at a wet-wetter-dry Nürburgring. It was a good day for Mercedes, Christian Vietoris bringing his car in third behind pole-starter Augusto Farfus’s BMW. Vietoris moves up to second in the title.
Still leading, in fact leading with an even bigger margin, is Audi’s Mike Rockenfeller who came home fourth today having led all but the first of the first 32 laps. Rocky’s race was the story of the day; the cars left the pits in the dry, but there were spots of rain visible from the in-car footage on the warm up laps as the wipers went on. By the time the grid lined up — two M3s ahead of two RS5s ahead of two C-Coupes — the heavens opened and some degree of first corner carnage was inevitable, with 22 500bhp V8s heading into a wet hairpin.
Rockenfeller came out worst, tapped in to a spin and dead last as the pack crossed the line. But Rocky didn’t, as his Phoenix Audi team immediately called him in for the switch to wets. As the remaining 20 cars pitted on laps two and three (American Joey Hand was the only lap one spinner not to make it out of the gravel), Rocky took the lead and held it there until lap 32. However DTM rules call for a minimum of two stops (and both compounds of tyres), but only after the first lap has been completed, so Rockenfeller’s lead was largely an illusion. Unless, of course, he could pull out a lead of 25 secs or more.
And for a while it looked like he might as the pack behind — lead by Adrien Tambay (Audi) son of former Ferrari F1 driver Patrick, Farfus (BMW), Miguel Molina (Audi) and Wickens — fought among themselves.
Coming to the end of lap 19 Wickens, who’s C-Coupe just got faster and faster as the track dried, pulled a move on Molina coming up to the last chicane. The four cars blasted down the start line pretty much abreast as Molina fought back. Coming in to turn three Wickens, fourth at the time, seemed to lose traction and dive deep off-line in the entrance to turn three on to the wetter part of the circuit. Out of the draught of Tambay and Farfus however, the C-Coupe turned in aggressively, heading inside and then outside the leading cars to take two places in one move. Wow. It was astonishing stuff and put Wickens in a clear position to eat away at Rockenfeller’s lead, which he duly did.
After that first lap, Rockenfeller will be grateful for the points, especially as the two men chasing him before this race — Bruno Spengler and Gary Paffett — didn’t score today. Spengler got caught in more than one tangle in the opening laps, his M3 gradually disintegrating throughout the race. Gary Paffett meanwhile spend the entire race on the wrong tyres, the result of a strategy gamble Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted afterwards was a shocker.
Rockenfeller leads now by 106 points to Vietoris’ 71 with Candians Wickens and Spengler following on 70 and 67. Paffett has dropped to sixth. With three rounds to run the momentum is still with Audi, but Mercedes is closing them down. BMW, defending champions with the M3, might already be looking forward to next year when it will race the new M4 you can see here.