DTM Nurburgring: Bortolotti triumphs in rain-affected opener

DTM Nurburgring: Bortolotti triumphs in rain-affected opener

SSR Performance’s Bortolotti was unchallenged in the hour-long opening contest at the former German Grand Prix venue, resisting two safety cars and a brief bout of rain to take the chequered flag by 1.1s over Winward Mercedes’ Lucas Auer. Championship leader Thomas Preining completed the podium spots in third.

As the race got underway at a dry Nurburgring circuit, albeit with dark clouds hanging over, Bortolotti pulled off cleanly from pole position, as Preining came under pressure from Audi duo Ricardo Feller and Kelvin van der Linde.

Van der Linde positioned his car on the outside into Turn 1 in a bid to pass Preining, but he was a passenger when Bortolotti’s team-mate Franck Perera misjudged his braking into the right-hander and slammed into the back of the Audi, sending him spinning down to last place.

The collision allowed Peining to hold second position behind Bortolotti, while Auer moved up to fourth with a brilliant launch from eighth on the grid.

At the front, Bortolotti started extending his advantage in the Lamborghini Huracan, pulling out a 4s lead by the time the pit window opened after 20 minutes of racing.

However, drivers were hesitant to head to the pits just yet, as there remained a chance of heavy rain hitting the track.

Spots of rain were clearly visible when Jack Aitken completed his mandatory pitstop, with the Emil Frey driver struggling on cold tyres in his Ferrari as parts of the track started to get damp.

The conditions soon caught out Toksport WRT’s Christian Engelhart, who lost control of his Porsche under braking for Turn 1, spinning rear-first into the Ayhancan Guven, who was circulating the track right in front of him.

Both cars were seriously damaged in the collision as they came to a rest in the gravel run-off, necessitating a safety car intervention.

Nearly the entire field took advantage of the caution period to get their pitstops out of the way, although all of them preferred to put on a new set of slicks.

During this caution period, rain began to intensify at some parts of the track, prompting some drivers – including three-time champion Rene Rast – to pit again and gamble on wet tyres.

But as it turned out, the rain stopped by the time the caution period ended and when the SC had to be brought out a second time to recover Alessio Deledda’s stranded Lamborghini at Turn 1, all those who had switched to wets had to head back to the pitlan to revert to slick tyres.

The second SC period ended with just 13 minutes left on the clock, with Borlolotti perfecting the restart to lead into Turn 1 as Preining came under pressure from Auer, who had already cleared Feller using the straightline speed of his Mercedes.

Preining and Auer went side-by-side into the opening sequence of corners, with the latter finally completing the move into Turn 4 to seal second.

Auer then began to close down on Bortolotti, who had extended his advantage to over two seconds in little time.

At one point, Auer had brought the deficit to under a second, but the Lamborghini driver was able to respond with a fastest lap of his own and maintain the status quo.

The result made Bortolotti the seventh different driver to win a race this season in as many races, as well as the second from the SSR team following Perera’s triumph in the season opener.

The 20kg of ballast Preining was carrying left him vulnerable to Feller in the closing laps, but the Manthey EMA driver was able to stave off the challenge to hold on to the final spot on the podium.

Dennis Olsen backed up his team-mate Preining’s performance to finish fifth, as BMW duo Marco Wittmann (Project 1) and Sheldon van der Linde (Schubert) finished sixth and seventh respectively, the latter climbing from 16th on the grid after a tough qualifying.

Kelvin van der Linde recovered from his Turn 1 incident with Perera that left him last to finish an incredible eighth, just ahead of the Orange 1 Audi of Patric Niederhauser and Emil Frey Ferrari of Thierry Vermulen.

Rast’s failed wet-tyre gamble left him 20th and out of the points, while Aitken finished two spots behind in 22nd after also having to make an additional stop to revert to slicks.

DTM Nurburgring – Race results:

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