Rally

Assen DTM: Wittmann wins for BMW, Lawson takes points lead

Wittmann’s Walkenhorst BMW M6 had dropped to fifth place after a slow pitstop on lap nine, but he charged his way through the field to win from guesting Lamborghini driver Mirko Bortolotti, who overcame a five-second penalty for an incident involving polesitter Lawson’s AF Corse Ferrari.

An ill-timed safety car for Abt Audi driver van der Linde left him 12th at the finish, costing the South African a championship lead he had held since the opening round of the season at Monza.

At the rolling start, Red Bull junior Lawson pulled away cleanly to take the lead into Turn 1, while Bortolotti emerged ahead in a three-way fight with Wittmann and Maximilian Gotz’s HRT Mercedes to take second.

A safety car was deployed soon after for a startline crash involving multiple drivers. One of those eliminated, GruppeM’s Daniel Juncadella, claimed it was caused by Lawson bunching up the field well after the green light had been shown.

T3 Motorsport’s Bortolotti immediately began to pressurise Lawson when the action finally resumed on lap five, Lawson hamstrung by 25kg of ballast after sweeping both races at the Red Bull Ring last time out.

Bortolotti made a move stick at Turn 6 on the race’s second green flag lap, the sixth tour, putting Lamborghini in prime position for a maiden win in the series.

But his hopes were dented after the pitstops by an impressive undercut from Gotz, who had pitted at the first opportunity on lap six and leapt from fourth to a net lead first once the leaders had completed their stops.

Bortolotti held a net second place at this stage, ahead of Lawson, with Philip Ellis (Winward Mercedes) in fourth and Wittmann fifth after a slow stop.

Mirko Bortolotti, T3-Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan Evo GT3

Mirko Bortolotti, T3-Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan Evo GT3

Photo by: Gruppe C GmbH

However, the complexion of the race changed again when the safety car was called for a second time on lap 15, to remove debris on track, bringing Wittmann back into play.

The two-time DTM champion quickly cleared Ellis and Bortolotti at the restart and then set about chasing Lawson – who had also passed Bortolotti – and Gotz.

On lap 20, Wittmann muscled his way past Lawson at Turn 8, with the Ferrari driver running wide over the gravel, before executing a similar move on Gotz a few laps later to move up to first.

Race control handed Wittmann a five-second penalty for allegedly making contact with Lawson, but he was able to build a gap of over eight seconds by the flag to follow up his victory at Zolder last month.

Bortolotti recovered from a slow restart to finish second and secure Lamborghini’s maiden DTM podium, passing Lawson for a second time with two laps left in the race.

Third place, however, was enough for Lawson to claim the championship lead as van der Linde’s alternate pitstop strategy was scuppered by the safety car’s reappearance.

He went long in the first stint to run in clear air, but was reeled in by the early stoppers under the safety car and dropped to 12th by the time he finally pitted with three laps to go.

Lawson now leads the championship on 156 points, with van der Linde and Wittmann tied on 148 points and Gotz – who slipped to fourth at the finish – a further point adrift, still very much in the mix.

Kelvin van der Linde, Abt Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3

Kelvin van der Linde, Abt Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3

Photo by: Gruppe C GmbH

Behind the leading quartet, fifth place in the race went to ex-Formula 1 driver Christian Klien, who enjoyed his best performance of the season in a guest McLaren entry run by JP Motorsport.

Sheldon van der Linde was classified sixth in the sole surviving Rowe Racing BMW, ahead of Ellis and the second T3 Motorsport Lamborghini of Esteban Muth.

Sophia Floersch bagged her first points in the DTM in a race that saw only 13 finishers, finishing ninth ahead of the Winward Mercedes of Lucas Auer in the Abt Sportsline Audi.

Esmee Hawkey (T3 Motorsport), Kelvin van der Linde and the latter’s team-mate Rockenfeller (following the same strategy) completed the list of classified finishers.

Race results:

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