Rast and Rocky lead Nurburgring practice
The Nürburgring is a happy hunting ground for DTM championship leader, Rene Rast.
Last year at the Eifel circuit, he became the first driver in DTM history to achieve the maximum points score over a weekend after clinching two pole positions and a pair of victories.
After posting the fastest time of the day in the first of Friday’s two free practice sessions around the 3.629km long sprint circuit, the German Audi driver laid down a handy warning marker for his chasing title rivals.
Again, the first 45 minutes of free practice in the early afternoon turned out to be the slightly faster session compared to the second 30-minute practice later in the afternoon. As a result, Rast’s pace-setting time of 1m20.438s in the first session emerged as the fastest time of the day.
“The weekend started well with P1 in FP1,” Rast commented. “It doesn’t mean anything, but we had quite a good gap to P2, which is promising. The long-run pace was okay, but we still have some work to do there. In general, it is good to come back with P1.”
Indeed, Rast was 0,436 seconds faster than Mike Rockenfeller, who ended up second ahead of fellow Audi drivers Nico Müller, Jonathan Aberdein, Jamie Green, Loïc Duval and Robin Frijns, who made it a clean sweep of the first seven places for drivers from the Ingolstadt-based brand.
As in recent events, Marco Wittmann again set the pace for BMW, ultimately ending up eighth. “We had a normal free practice,” said the German afterwards. “The gap to the front is still quite big, let’s try to find some more time for FP2. The handling of the car wasn’t ideal yet. I think there is still some potential and then we have to make sure we draw the right conclusions for tomorrow.”
Brazil’s Pietro Fittipaldi ended up ninth in the second WRT-Audi, ahead of Paul Di Resta who rounded out the top 10 with the fastest of the R-Motorsport Aston Martins.
Indeed, Wittmann did improve his personal best time in the second session – by almost four tenths of a second. It didn’t help him much in terms of positions, however, as he only moved up one place, ending the second session in seventh, once again the fastest BMW driver.
“When you look at the gap, it’s very positive for us: we’ve managed to reduce it from around nine- to two-tenths of a second,” Wittmann said. “We’ve done a really good job in terms of set-up after I wasn’t quite happy with the car after the first session. We’ve made some good steps that were positive. Of course, tomorrow is when it matters and we hope to make another step. Then, it can be quite close. I think we are a bit closer than we were before and I hope we will be able to build on that to be in a good position tomorrow.”
In the second session, it was Rockenfeller who topped the time-sheets with a best lap of 1m20.524s, 0.086 slower than Rast’s earlier benchmark. “We had two smooth sessions,” Rockenfeller commented after the opening day at his home event. “We tried a few things, and, although the handling of the car isn’t perfect yet, it’s not bad at all, so let’s see what we can do this weekend. So far, it looks quite promising!”
Jonathan Aberdein put in another strong performance by ending up second, followed by Frijns, Müller, Rast and Duval. Behind BMW driver Wittmann, Green and Fittipaldi (both Audi) and Eng (BMW) rounded out the top ten, with Di Resta again as the fastest Aston Martin driver, this time in 12th place.
Second free practice was briefly interrupted after the driver-side door of Ferdinand von Habsburg had come loose and flown off, needing to be recovered from the track.