Two maiden victories on one weekend: on Saturday, Dutchman Robin Frijns (NED, Audi) celebrated his first-ever DTM race win at his home circuit in Assen, on Sunday, Sheldon van der Linde secured the first DTM race victory for a South African. The only 21-year-old BMW driver won the race thanks to clever tactics by his RBM team and courtesy of his driving skills on the soaked asphalt that gave many of his opponents a hard time.
After a disappointing qualifying, van der Linde had only started the race from 14th on the grid, emphasising the young driver’s outstanding performance even more. In a turbulent race, Frijns came home as the best-placed Audi driver. Points’ leader Nico Müller (SUI, Audi) rounded out the podium and remains in the lead of the drivers’ standings. The spectators who had made the trip got to see a highly entertaining race marked by numerous position changes, a temporary stoppage of the race and a new start behind the safety car.
Qualifying having still been held in dry conditions, heavy downpours fell on the TT Circuit that completely soaked the track. All drivers opted for rain tyres as a result. Due to the weather conditions, race control had imposed two formation laps behind the safety car. For the standing start at the dry asphalt, pole sitter René Rast (GER, Audi) lacked the necessary grip to remain in front. Loïc Duval (FRA, Audi) handled it considerably better and immediately took the lead. Robin Frijns went past as well and claimed second place.
Early stop and fast laps key to victory
Out in front, however, things were soon getting close for Duval. Robin Frijns was the first to get past and later on, the Frenchman lost further ground to Rast, Müller and Timo Glock (GER, BMW). The latter, having started eighth, did very well with his BMW M4 DTM in the wet. While Frijns was able to extend his lead, Duval dropped back further. Van der Linde’s RBM team, meanwhile, opted for an early stop to put fresh rain tyres on. That eventually turned out to be the key to victory as the opposition from Audi, led by Frijns, Müller and Rast, made its pit stops considerably later. In the meantime, van der Linde pushed with fast laps so that he could just stay ahead of Frijns as the latter rejoined the race.
Race stopped after Scherer’s accident
Soon after that, there was a heart-stopping moment for the fans in the grandstands as rookie driver Fabio Scherer (SUI, Audi) had a massive shunt in the fast Ramshoek section. His WRT team had put on slick tyres, a risk that proved to be too high in the conditions. Debris on track and damaged tyre stacks were the reason the race had to be stopped. Scherer escaped unscathed from his Audi RS 5 DTM, but the race was over for the young Swiss. Out in front, van der Linde made no mistakes at the rolling restart and commandingly defended his lead until the finish. Frijns and Müller tried everything but posed no threat to the BMW driver as the rain set in again. Van der Linde’s victory goes down into DTM history as the first-ever win by a South African. For the RBM team, it was the tenth victory in the touring car race series.
Prior to the ninth race of the season at the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit (12-13 September), Nico Müller remains in the lead of the drivers’ standings at 164 points. After his win on Saturday, Robin Frijns remains second at 138 points and is 18 points ahead of third-placed René Rast.
Gerhard Berger, chairman, ITR e.V. : “This year, the DTM provides excitement at the highest level and this race weekend at Assen was no exception: with Robin Frijns and Sheldon van der Linde, two young and talented drivers climbed onto the top step of the podium who had already frequently shown their speed and for whom the maiden win only was a matter of time. Now, we have already had five different winners from the first eight races of the season and it is great to see young talents making it onto the podium as well. This reflects the huge driving potential of the DTM and also shows how close the racing is. This time, the weather provided additional drama. In the process, van der Linde not only benefited from his impressive speed, but also from the clever tactics with an early pit stop. For me, Assen was a special experience as spectators were able to watch the races live on site again as well. Now, I hope for all of us that this can be possible more often again.”
Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), BMW, winner: “A dream has come true. Winning the race after having started from 14th on the grid is actually unbelievable. It shows that simply anything can happen in the DTM. Of course, the weather helped us as well. Huge thanks to the entire team and to BMW. Our crew has done a tremendous job, the car handled really well. Assen is a good track to test the limits, something that worked out very well here. The restart was a bit tricky, but we were in control throughout. I am overjoyed.”
Robin Frijns (NED), Audi, 2nd place: “From my perspective, everything went quite well. The first two or three laps, I was having some difficulties in getting the tyres to the right temperature. Then, I found a good rhythm and the balance was good, too. Until the pit stop, everything went according to plan. That I then rejoined the race behind Sheldon van der Linde, was not what we had planned, of course. After the restart, it was very wet, so that I didn’t start any risky manoeuvres in order to bring second place home.”
Nico Müller (SUI), Audi, 3rd place: “A very entertaining race, not just for the spectators, but also from the driver’s perspective. The start was really good, but the first laps weren’t. Driving behind in the spray is tough, you can hardly see anything. After I lost positions, I was able to stabilise. BMW played it well with the tactics of the early pit stop, that paid off. Even though we were unable to get the maximum out of it today, it was a good recovery. My appetite for the next victory is getting bigger.” “A very entertaining race, not just for the spectators, but also from the driver’s perspective. The start was really good, but the first laps weren’t. Driving behind in the spray is tough, you can hardly see anything. After I lost positions, I was able to stabilise. BMW played it well with the tactics of the early pit stop, that paid off. Even though we were unable to get the maximum out of it today, it was a good recovery. My appetite for the next victory is getting bigger.”
Results – Race 2, Assen
- Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), BMW M4 DTM, 31 laps in 1 hour 13 minutes 27.930 seconds
- Robin Frijns (NED), Audi RS 5 DTM, + 2.621 seconds
- Nico Müller (SUI), Audi RS 5 DTM, + 3.658 seconds
- Loïc Duval (FRA), Audi RS 5 DTM, + 9.414 seconds
- René Rast (GER( Audi RS 5 DTM, + 9.455 seconds
- Timo Glock (GER), BMW M4 DTM, + 9.870 seconds
- Ferdinand Habsburg (AUT), Audi RS 5 DTM, + 11.048 seconds
- Marco Wittmann (GER), BMW M4 DTM, + 11.666 seconds
- Philipp Eng (AUT), Audi RS 5 DTM, + 12.436 seconds
- Lucas Auer (AUT), BMW M4 DTM, +13.033 seconds
Fastest lap: Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), BMW M4 DTM, 1 minute 35.854 seconds
Pole Position: René Rast (GER), Audi RS 5 DTM, 1 minute 22.976 seconds
Weather: 17°C, rain
Track: 15°C, wet
Robin Frijns scores emotional maiden DTM race win
A maiden win that was overdue: in front of his home crowd, Robin Frijns secured his first-ever DTM victory. In the first race of the season for which spectators were allowed in again, the 29-year-old from Maastricht delivered the first DTM race win by a Dutch driver since Christijan Albers at Estoril in 2004. Frijns, who had been unable to convert already four pole positions into his maiden win so far this year, came out on top in a thrilling three-way battle in the race on Saturday in which he had started from second on the grid. Until the finish line, his rivals Loïc Duval (FRA), who had started from first pole position, and points’ leader and young family father Nico Müller (SUI) were right behind him. Only nine tenths of a second separated the Audi trio in the first three places. The spectators in the grandstands along the main straight, who were admitted in again for the first time this season, celebrated their fellow Dutchman Frijns with standing ovations.
Prior to Sunday’s eighth race of the DTM season (live on SAT.1 from 13.00 hrs), Nico Müller remains in the lead of the drivers’ standings at 149 points. With his victory, Frijns has moved up into second with 119 points, defending champion Rast has dropped to third with 107 points.
A lot of grip, high tyre degradation
The starting grid procedure for the seventh race of the season was celebrated in front of spectators for the first time again this season and the joy was massive at both sides, among the drivers just as well as among the spectators. Prior to the start, there was uncertainty concerning the tyre strategy: not just that there had been a downpour over the TT Circuit just after qualifying and there were still several wet patches, the asphalt in Assen that had only been replaced in February also caused uncertainty as to the right tyre strategy. All drivers eventually started with slick tyres and the one-stop strategy turned out to be the correct choice.
Pole-sitter Duval had a good getaway from first on the grid and did everything right at the front of the field while Frijns initially ran behind Ferdinand Habsburg (AUT, Audi). The Austrian had made an excellent start from fourth on the grid, but lost ground as the race went on and eventually had to make do with eighth place. Duval, meanwhile, defended his lead, but saw Frijns increasingly large in his rear-view mirror. With seven laps remaining, the local hero made the decisive move and moved up into the lead. Duval followed closely behind with Müller on his tail, so that Frijns had to work had to defend his lead until the finish.
South African Aberdein best BMW driver in sixth: setback for the Munich-based brand
After the double success in the Sunday race at Lausitzring a fortnight ago, the BMW armada now had to take in a setback. South African Jonathan Aberdein was the best-placed BMW driver in sixth from his compatriot Sheldon van der Linde. Timo Glock (GER, BMW), who shone with a great second-place finish at Lausitz, now had to make do with ninth place. Fellow BMW driver and ex-Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica (POL) scored his first DTM championship point by finishing tenth. Last year’s Assen race winner Marco Wittmann didn’t get his weekend at the track off to a good start and only finished 14th having been tapped into a spin.
Robin Frijns (NED), Audi, winner: “It took me three years to score my first DTM win. I have been close a couple of times and I frequently had the feeling that I had the pace to pull it off. But something always got in my way. I have scored a few podium finishes. But now I am really happy that it happened here at Assen where, finally, fans were admitted into the grandstands again. It couldn’t have happened at any better place than here at Assen.”
Loïc Duval (FRA), Audi, 2nd place: “Of course, it is disappointing to have been leading the race for so long and then only end up second. We were a bit uncertain with our strategy. Perhaps we made our pit stop a little bit too early. Otherwise, I perhaps could have kept Robin Frijns behind me for one or two more laps and the outcome could have been different. At the end, I still had something left that enabled me to close up again, but closing up and overtaking are two different things. At the end of the day, it was a mix of various elements. But the performance is okay and on Sunday we will do our outmost to get even better.”
Nico Müller (SUI), Audi, 3rd place: “There were many surprises in the race. Of course, I hoped to defend my third place on the grid. In the first corner, it was a bit slippery so that I lost positions. As to the tyres, I had expected two stops, but one turned out to be enough. That was a surprise indeed. Running in third place after my stop, I had the problem that Loïc in front of me was able to use DRS as well to attack Robin. Eventually, that was the decisive problem. However, I am really happy for Robin and for the team, of course.”