With eight of sixteen races complete in the 2023 DTM championship, defending drivers champion Sheldon van der Linde sits second in points behind Porsche driver Thomas Preining, but the gap between van der Linde and third place driver Mirko Bortlotti got significantly tighter in the last two rounds at the Nürburgring.
None of the BMW M4 GT3s entered in the DTM were very competitive in qualifying at the ‘Ring. René Rast was the fastest qualifier in a BMW for race one but was way down in ninth and around six-tenths off the pole time of Mirko Bortolotti in his Lamborghini.
The BMWs proved to be more competitive in the race in race one but finished outside the top five, with Marco Wittmann finishing sixth in the Project 1 M4 GT3 and van der Linde in seventh in his Schubert Motorsport M4 GT3. Van der Linde had an impressive drive, as he moved up from a sixteenth starting position to score some points in seventh. Unfortunately for van der Linde, the two drivers he is battling the most with in points finished in first (Bortolotti) and second (Preining).
Race two went much poorer than race one, as the BMW teams got the strategy wrong with the weather conditions and their tire choice, starting the race on slicks when they should have started on rain tires. They were out of the race as soon as it started to rain fifteen minutes into the race, and the top BMW finished ended up being newcomer Sandro Holzem in fourteenth. Points leader Preining finished fifth to score more points, but a DNF by Bortolotti allowed van der Linde (who finished seventeenth) to keep second place in the standings by one point.
Marco Wittmann was the fastest BMW qualifier for race two in sixth, but also ended up out of the hunt with the wrong tire choice and finished fifteenth, with the race won by Maximilian Paul in his Lamborghini. “In principle, we made pretty decent progress this weekend and scored good points on Saturday as the best-placed BMW,” said Wittmann. “Things also looked very good after qualifying on Sunday. Unfortunately, the team and I then made the wrong strategy decision at the start of the race. We thought it would stay dry for longer, which is why we came in after the first warm-up lap to put on slicks. That helped me to be the fastest car out there for the early laps, but when the rain returned it put paid to our strategy. That is very disappointing, but it can happen sometimes.”
The second half of the DTM season starts on the weekend of August 18th-20th at the Lausitzring, followed by races at the Sachsenring, the Red Bull Ring and Hockenheim.
[Photos courtesy Gruppe C Photography, Hoch Zwei]