An insane Zandvoort round

DTM Zandvoort
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The penultimate round of the 2014 DTM season took place in Holland, by the North Sea, on the local „Nordscheife”, the Zandvoort race track. Even though Marco Wittmann has pulled the curtain over the pilots’ championship title even from the previous round, the vacant titles from the teams and manufacturers anticipated what would have happened anyways: an insane round.

The Zandvoort race track was introduced in the calendar of the 2014 season, due to certain circumstances, because it was kept as a backup for a street round that was supposed to take place in China. However, the Dutch were lucky enough to enjoy the most spectacular touring car racing in the world. Not the same thing could be said about those involved in the DTM and support competitions. This is because Zandvoort, even though is quite spectacular, it is a rather old-fashioned race track, with some extremely narrow spaces for releases, many pitfalls and blind spots for pilots.

Even so, there are enough main actors in the DTM who are comfortable on the speed tracks of the circuit placed exactly on the seashore, surrounded by sand dunes that form genuine stands for spectators. One of those pilots is the Swedish Mattias Ekstrom, three-time winner before the 2014 round. Another pilot from the current starting grid, who has fond memories from Holland is the 2013 champion, Mike Rockenfeller (Audi). The German even had a good qualification round and he managed to adjudge the pole position. Therefore, in the penultimate race when he competed with the number “1” car, Rocky was the very first on the race track, where he had been crowned champion just one year before the race.

Marco Wittmann (BMW) was his colleague at the line. Wittmann took the lead, once he was discharged of any type of pressure regarding the title, and he could race as he pleased, for its own track record or for the titles at stake for teams and manufacturers. The best ranking Mercedes-Benz pilot was Pascal Wehlerin who certified the excellent shape from the previous round victory, from the third line of the starting grid.

Concerning the Stuttgart manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz came to Zandvoort with an important innovation. An evolution of the AMG C-Coupe model, as a result of the dispensation he benefited from. As it is well known, after a reluctant season debut, Mercedes-Benz has benefited from DTM organizers’ clemency (including the competition partners such as Audi and BMW) and it managed to develop furthermore the competition pattern until 25th of September. Zandvoort was the first show-off for the technological facelift, but Mercedes-Benz decided that to bring only one upgrade at Start: Christian Vietories’s one.

Surprisingly or not, the new model didn’t make any impression at all, while Vietoris had a good evolution, yet not an outstanding one. The main race was spectacular, but chaotic at times. After a very good start, Wittman assumed a pretty big risk, approaching with confidence an inside where he practically caressed the slide bar and he managed to surpass Rockenfeller. It was just the first duel of the two champions (the current one and the next one), two pilots that ensured a critical first line from the starting grid.

Zandvoort 2014 was the race of the entry strategies and of the safety car. Mainly because, the latter one appeared no less than four times, after some incidents that pulled out of the game some important pilots like Augusto Farfus (BMW, winner of the 2013 round). Another important pilot that abandoned the race due to technical issues, was the Scottish Paul Di Resta, Mercedes-Benz, holding a DTM title.

Concerning the chosen tires strategy, the most inspired was Mattias Ekstrom, the 36 year old sly dog who was the big champion. He went started the race from the eighth position, after receiving a five position penalty for technical nonconformity, but the Swedish chose to race with the standard, stiffer tires, while others in the front started the race with the softer, optional tires and, at least theoretically, more efficient. But the frequent safety car interventions had tightened the lines between the pilots, all the spreads being adjusted unnaturally with its entrance.  Wittmann was the first one to enter the pits, because his driving style had worn off faster the tires and Ekstrom was the right man on time, once again proving that Audi pilots are real masters of race strategies.

This is how the Zandvoort round was won, the first victory for Audi, the only manufacturer that hadn’t climbed on the first stage of the podium in 2014. Ekstrom was followed by Wittmann and, surprisingly, related to its evolutions from the BMW era, by Martin Tomczyck ( his first podium from august 2012). The best ranked Mercedes-Benz pilot was Christian Vietories, who competed until the very end with the Italian Edoardo Mortara (Audi) for the fourth position. And this despite the fact that even the revelation Pascal Wehrlein, who set the rhythm for Mercedes-Benz, was betrayed by the tires, at the end being surpassed by Vietories.

With a second placed achieved in Holland, Marco Wittmann also secured the team title for BMW Team RMG. The final round recorded the final battle for manufacturer’s title, the only one that hasn’t been yet adjudged. The last round, the final, is a traditional one and it will take place on 19th octomber at Hokenheim. Besides the vanities war between Audi-BMW-Mercedes-Benz for supreme fame in DTM, the unofficial title for vice-champion will be awarded in Baden-Württemberg, and, for the moment, Mattias Ekstrom is favourite, after an exciting evolution at Zandvoort. With 81 points he is ranked on the second place in the overall temporary standing, but Edoardo Mortara lurks for every stumble from the Sweedish, waiting for any mistake.

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