Sheldon van der Linde came into the DTM race weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Austria with the lead in the drivers championship. He still had that lead at the end of the weekend, but it had narrowed considerably.
After being fastest in the second practice session, Van der Linde went even faster in qualifying, but his time was only good enough for seventeenth on the grid, around eight-tenths off the pole time of René Rast in his Audi (who will be a BMW driver next season). Interestingly, the best qualifying time from a BMW driver was from Leon Köhler of Walkenhorst Motorsport, who was competing in his first race in a BMW, but he still could only manage only twelfth on the grid.
Race one didn’t go any better than qualifying for the BMW drivers. Van der Linde was the best finishing BMW in eleventh and was out of the points, as the race was run by Nick Cassidy in his Ferrari. Eng finished in twelfth, with Marco Wittmann in fourteenth and Köhler in 22nd. The BMWs qualified better for the second race, with Eng in fifth and Van der Linde in sixth, but Van der Linde was given a nine-place grid penalty for exceeding track limits too much in race one. His day got even worse when he spun on the wet track on the first lap.
Eng ended up finishing a strong fifth in the second race, which was won by Porsche driver Thomas Preining. Van der Linde fought back to eleventh but was still out of the points and was followed by Wittmann in twelfth and Köhler in thirteenth. “We did not do a good job this weekend,” said Van der Linde after the race. “My track limits penalty from Saturday knocked us back on Sunday, and then I made that error on lap one. The deficit was simply too large for us to finish in the points. However, all is not lost. I am still in the lead in the drivers’ championship. Now Hockenheim will be decisive, and I really believe in my team and in myself – and I believe that we can do it.”
The DTM season all comes down to the wire on the weekend of October 7th-9th at Hockenheim and it has the potential to be a thrilling weekend. Van der Linde still holds the points lead, but Mercedes-AMG driver Lucas Auer is just eleven points behind, and Rast is just one point behind Auer. The top five drivers are all within sixteen points. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy Hoch Zwei/DTM]