ROCKENFELLER WINS – EKSTRÖM CLAIMS BACK POINTS’ LEAD
There is no doubt that he can rightfully refer to himself as ‘Moscow expert’. Two years after his victory in the first-ever DTM race at Moscow Raceway, Mike Rockenfeller had reason to celebrate in Russia once again. In a turbulent race, the Audi driver steered clear of every incident on the track, made maximum use of his pole position and scored a dominant lights-to-flag victory. “I had the car I need to win. In spite of the amount of success ballast, it was simply super-fast,” a jubilant Rockenfeller said. So fast, that even Bruno Spengler, with the considerably lighter BMW, wasn’t able to keep up. After a fierce battle with the drivers behind him, the Canadian crossed the finish line in second place, some four seconds down on Rockenfeller. The final slot on the podium went to a buoyant Mattias Ekström, who once again showed his great skills and claimed back the lead in the drivers’ standings from Pascal Wehrlein. The Mercedes-Benz driver was involved in one of two entertaining battling groups that made their mark on the race.
Rockenfeller stayed away from all these duels. Only right after the start, he had to defend his position against a spirited attack by Spengler. Rockenfeller: “After these difficult weeks, this is a great relief both for my team and for myself. I was able to control the race easily and bring victory home without any major problems.” This was also the result of the fact that there were fierce battles for every inch of asphalt going on behind him. On the opening lap of the race, there was already a fascinating fight for the podium positions with four drivers involved: with plenty of self-confidence, Maxime Martin tried to work his way past fellow BMW driver Spengler, but briefly went off the track in the process. Jamie Green immediately responded: the Brit almost used the duel of the BMW drivers to overtake both of them in one go. Eventually, however, Spengler withstood the attack by the Audi driver while Belgian Martin had to slot in behind Green and thus became a target for Mattias Ekström. Entertaining race action for the approximately 26,000 fans at Moscow Raceway in the opening stages of the race on Sunday already. And these weren’t the last duels in this group, that remained together almost throughout the race distance of 41 laps.
Rockenfeller benefited from the battles going on behind him. When the use of DRS was allowed four laps into the race, he was already over a second ahead of his rivals. Thus, his main opponent Spengler was unable to use DRS. “It was a tough race,” Spengler commented. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep up with Mike due to the duels in the opening stages. At the end of the day, I am happy to have brought my second place home. A great weekend for me.” The battle for this second position was decided when another driver mingled with the group of four: DTM rookie Lucas Auer. The Austrian had waited a long time before coming in for his mandatory pit stop and therefore was ahead of Spengler on the track, considerably slowing down the entire group. It took Spengler seven laps to move ahead of Auer. Martin, Ekström and Green – the order being the result of different pit stops – still had to stay behind the Austrian. While Spengler charged to pull a gap of over three seconds, it took the other three drivers four laps to get past Auer as well. After that, Auer turned into the pits and Ekström increased the pressure on Martin. The Belgian defended his position for seven laps, got praise over the radio from his team, but eventually had to give in. With a little over ten minutes to go, Ekström used the final corner before the main straight to secure third place with an audacious overtaking move. Ekström: “The accident in yesterday’s race was a wake-up call for me. This time, I was more cautious and that paid off.”
The Swede scored valuable points that brought him back into the lead of the drivers’ standings, because his main rival out in front of the championship, Pascal Wehrlein, had only started the race from eleventh place. “Thus, the race was almost run already. In qualifying, we simply weren’t strong enough,” the 21-year-old analysed. On track, however, he tried everything to work his way up through the ranks. First of all, he had a tough duel with Edoardo Mortara, third in the drivers’ standings, in which Wehrlein prevailed on lap eight. Later on, however, Wehrlein lost this place again because of the pit stops, but didn’t give up yet. In a spirited way, he closed the gap again and was involved in a battle with Mortara and the latter’s fellow Audi driver Nico Müller until the final seconds. Eventually, however, Wehrlein had to admit defeat, with tenth place as his result. Thus, Gary Paffett was the best-placed Mercedes-Benz driver in sixth position.
After the sixth weekend of the 2015 DTM season, Ekström is now leading in the drivers’ standings with 126 points. Wehrlein follows with 120 points from Mortara, who has 110 points following his eighth place in the race on Sunday. Bruno Spengler is the best-placed BMW driver with 85 points in fifth position. Fans at Oschersleben can already look forward to the next event, because the 13th and 14th race of the current season will take place there from September 11 till 13. Action in Moscow has shown in an impressive way that the hot phase in the battle for the title has begun and an early decision is anything but likely. Spectacular racing is on the cards in the region of Magdeburg.