After chaos in Hockenheim, can DTM provide the goods again at Zolder?
It was the start of a new era for DTM in 2019. With Mercedes-AMG withdrawing after last season's championship to focus their efforts on Formula E, and then being replaced by Aston Martin to become the first non-German entry in 22 years, it was certainly going to shake things up. This season also sees the introduction of "Class One" regulations, which combines the same technical set of regulations as the Super GT championship in Japan. This will allow teams from the Japanese Championship to compete in select DTM events this season. It's one of the biggest technical shake up's the sport has ever seen.
So what happened in Hockenheim?
The opening race was a monsoon deluge, with Marco Wittmann taking the chequered flag from pole position in his BMW M4. But what happened between lights out and the race end was nothing but non-stop action. Timo Glock set the precedant after taking a 360 degree spin at the race start when he received a tap from René Rast, after he himself would slow and retire from the race, meaning a 16th place starting position for race two. The mandatory pit stop didn't make things easy, especially with the ever drying conditions. But after a sensational recovery drive, Timo Glock would set the fastest lap on the way to a 4th place finish, after pitting late on, using the drying conditons to his advantage with fresh tires.
So on to race two, and we had our first glimpse of the 2019 cars in fully dry race conditions. Pole sitter Robin Frijns got a sensational launch off the line, and led the early phase of the race. Mike Rockenfeller was an early retirement with a mechanical issue, as Loic Duval found himself in the gravel trap at the Sachskurve, bringing out the safety car. Strategy would prove pivotal, as race one retiree René Rast pitted during the caution period and rejoined the back of the queue with fresh tires, thus commencing his storm to the front of the pack. Paul di Resta would also put on a strong performance for debutants Aston Martin as he drove the brand new Vantage to a commendable 7th place finish, even leading some laps during the race. But ultimately, it was Rast that would complete a stunning comeback drive, using strategy to his benefit and emphatically winning race two.
And what can we expect from Zolder this weekend?
DTM returns to Zolder in Belgium this weekend for the first time in 17 years, and there's plenty of talking points as we come back to the 2.492 mile circuit this weekend. Can Aston Martin continue their strong development? Will we see the same close competition between BMW and Audi like we saw in Hockenheim?
The last time DTM was in Zolder in 2002, both races were won by France's Laurent Aïello for Audi. The track remains unchanged, and is still a great challenge for drivers and teams to strike the perfect car setup. The current lap record is a 1:14.089 set by Sebastian Bourdais during his 2007 championship winning Champ Car season. Can the new 2.0L turbocharged DTM machines challenge this lap time?
One thing is almost certainly guaranteed however, and that's more of the same action that we got in Hockenheim. The new regulations have appeared to close the gap in the competition, which means we are in for an exciting new era for the marque German touring car series.