Marco Wittmann celebrated his 30th birthday with a second-place finish in the second of the two DTM-Super GT dream races run at Fuji International Speedway in Japan. The DTM cars were much stronger on Sunday than they had been on Saturday, when the Japanese Super GT series cars dominated.
Three M4 DTMs and four Audi RS5 DTMs represented the DTM series at Fuji. They ran against fifteen Super GT cars from Honda, Lexus, and Nissan. The M4s, run by Team RBM, were driven by Wittmann, Alex Zanardi, and Japanese racer Kamui Kobayashi.
Three Super GT cars had run in the DTM finale at Hockenheim in October. The Fuji event marked the first joint appearance of cars from the two series in Japan. The two series have adopted common technical regulations, but there are still significant differences between the cars. The Fuji races were run in the 55-minute DTM race format.
On Saturday, when Nick Cassidy in a Lexus LC500 won the race, Kamui Kobayashi in fourteenth was the best BMW finisher. Zanardi retired with an electrical problem, and Wittmann finished eighteenth. The team brought in Wittmann, who started nineteenth on the grid, at the end of the first lap, hoping that a safety car period would enable him to move up. A safety car came out, but it was too late in the race for Wittmann to regain any ground. Audi’s Benoit Treluyer, who finished sixth, was the best placing DTM racer.
Sunday’s race was punctuated by three safety car periods. Audi’s Loic Duval and Kobayashi were battling for third near the end of the race when they came together, bringing out the final safety car. Wittmann moved up to second behind Super GT racer Narain Karthikayan in a Honda NSX when the safety car period ended with a lap remaining, with Duval third and Kobayashi fifth. Duval challenged Wittmann and got by, running wide in the final corner. While Duval finished second on the track, he was penalized for his move, and was demoted to third. Kobayashi finished fifth, while Zanardi, who had run as high as second, finished thirteenth. The win went to Karthikayan.
BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt said, “That is exactly the kind of race we wanted for our fans here in Japan—and, of course, for those watching in Europe. That was really great motorsport, although it was rather chaotic at times, but that is what the fans want to see. Our trip to Fuji was definitely worth the effort. Thank you to Bart Mampaey and everyone at BMW Team RBM. They all did a fantastic job, ensuring our three cars were running at the very highest level and performing great pit stops. Congratulations to Marco Wittmann—on his birthday, and second place here. That was another superb performance from him. Kamui Kobayashi also fought hard and put on a sensational display on his first weekend in a DTM car. Alex Zanardi was also in the thick of the action and once again produced some very special moments. All in all, it was a great advert for touring car racing. We saw that a joint event with Super GT and the DTM can work brilliantly and produce superb racing. The Dream Race was a total success—let’s do it again. On the whole, it has been a very successful weekend for us with Alexander Sims’ victory in Formula E and second place for the BMW M6 GT3 in the IGTC in Kyalami.”—Brian Morgan
[Photos courtesy BMW Motorsport.]