Sheldon van der Linde was able to maintain his lead in the DTM drivers’ championship after the pair of races at the Spa-Franchorchamps circuit in Belgium this past weekend, on the strength of a second-place finish in race two.
The Spa weekend didn’t start out well for any of the BMW drivers, as rain came into play in the first half of the weekend. In qualifying for race one, Marco Wittmann was the best of the BMWs in seventeenth position, around two seconds off the pole time of Dennis Olsen in his Porsche. Olsen went on to win in the wet race, and Wittmann moved up to ninth place to be the best-finishing BMW. Points leader Sheldon van der Linde ended up in twelfth after qualifying in 22nd.
It was a different story for Van der Linde on Sunday, as the rain moved out and the track dried. He qualified in second just four-hundredths of a second behind pole-sitter Rene Rast in his Audi (who will be a BMW driver in 2023). The next closest BMW to Van der Linde in qualifying was Wittmann in thirteenth.
At the start, Van der Linde was able to move ahead of Rast, but he then lost the lead to Nick Cassidy in his Ferrari when the Schubert Motorsport team had a longer than planned pit stop. Cassidy was able to hold off Van der Linde through the end of the race, as Van der Linde kept the bigger picture in mind and tried to avoid being overly aggressive to fight for the win.
Van der Linde’s second place finish allowed him to extend his championship lead by 32 points, as other contenders lost out. Rast was unable to score any points, and Mirko Bortolotti finished tenth in his Lamborghini. BMW drivers Philipp Eng and Marco Wittmann also had top ten finishes in the second race at Spa, with Eng in seventh and Wittmann in ninth. BMW sits third in the manufacturer championship behind Audi and Mercedes. “Sunday went superbly for me,” said Van der Linde. “After failing to score on Saturday, I was actually able to extend my lead in the drivers’ championship – that is fantastic. I believe I could even have won the race, but unfortunately we lost some time in the pit stop. These things happen. Apart from that, the guys have done a fantastic job all year. When it came to the battle with Nick Cassidy, I was thinking about the points and did not try anything crazy. The championship obviously looks good for me, but I have always done well so far by simply focussing on the next race. I am not going to change that now.”
The DTM series will travel to the Red Bull Ring in Austria on the weekend of September 23rd-25th, for the penultimate race weekend of the season, which closes out at Hockenheim in Germany on October 7th-9th.
In other BMW driver news, Timo Glock will no longer be a works driver at the end of this season. “Thank you, BMW Motorsport, for spending 10 years together around the world on the best race tracks you can dream of,” said Glock on social media. “I really enjoyed the intense time in DTM with those wonderful Class 1 cars and great wins and podiums.” Glock’s last race as a works driver will be in the Italian GT finale at Mugello on the weekend of October 20th-23rd. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy Hoch Zwei/DTM]