An insane Zandvoort race track lap

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. Marco Wittmann pulled the curtain over the drivers’ championship title from the previous round. But the vacant titles from the teams and manufacturers anticipated what would have happened anyways: an insane round.

The Zandvoort race track appeared in the calendar of the 2014 season, due to certain circumstances. It was a backup for a street round that should have taken place in China. However, the Dutch were lucky enough to enjoy the most spectacular touring car racing in the world. We could not say the same about those in the DTM and support competitions. This is because Zandvoort, even though it is quite spectacular, it is a rather an old-fashioned race track. And there are some extremely narrow spaces for releases. There are many pitfalls and blind spots for drivers.

Even so, there are enough main actors in the DTM who are comfortable on the speed tracks of the circuit exactly on the seashore, with surroundds of 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 driver 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. He managed to account 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. It is the race track where he got his champion crown just the year before the race.

Marco Witmann in the lead at Zandvoort

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 driver was Pascal Wehlerin. He 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 managed to further develop the competition pattern until 25th of September. Zandvoort was the first show-off for the technological facelift. But Mercedes-Benz decided to bring only one upgrade at the start. It ws 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.

The race of the entry strategies and of the safety car

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 drivers like Augusto Farfus (BMW, winner of the 2013 round). Another important driver 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 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 drivers. All the spreads adjusted unnaturally with its entrance.  Wittmann was the first one to enter the pits. That happened because his driving style had worn off the tires faster. And Ekstrom was the right man at the right time. He once again proved that the Audi drivers are real masters of race strategies.

This is how the Zandvoort round was won. It was the first victory for Audi, the only manufacturer that hadn’t climbed on the first step of the podium in 2014. Wittmann followed Ekstrom and, surprisingly, in relation with its evolutions from the BMW era, by Martin Tomczyck. It was his first podium since August 2012. The best ranked Mercedes-Benz driver was Christian Vietories, who duelled 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, got a tires betrayal, 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 decide in Baden-Württemberg. For the moment, Mattias Ekstrom is the favourite, after an exciting evolution at Zandvoort. With 81 points, he ranks second in the temporary overall standing. But Edoardo Mortara lurks for every stumble from the Sweedish, waiting for any mistake.