DTM Hockenheim (D)
After a few, but successful, test days with the new, superfast DTM turbo cars (over 600 hp), the season’s opener in Hockenheim began in the traditional way on the May Day weekend. On the Saturday, a temperature of around 5 degrees plus rain made our lives difficult, and we also struggled with a problem with our car. However, 8th place enabled us to contain the damage and still open the season with some points. On the Sunday, the rain stayed away and we were able to record our first really fast lap times. The 4-cylinder DTM turbo generation is even faster than last year’s by about 3 seconds! For me, personally, the second day of racing went much better. Starting from 4th place, I fought my way immediately into 2nd place and started chasing the leader. Unfortunately, the safety car was used at an unfavourable time, which ruined our strategy and, with it, the chance of victory. However, with a strong 2nd place, our season was now definitely under way.
MotoGP Star Andrea Dovizioso
During the short break between the opening races, I had the honour of introducing our mega guest starter and MotoGP star, Andrea Dovizioso, to the world of DTM. I accompanied him on his simulator sessions and on his first test drives in the Audi RS5 DTM.
DTM Zolder (B)
We continued with the second DTM race in Zolder (Belgium). This was new territory for me and also the return of the DTM to its birthplace. I quickly found my way around the new track and, on the Saturday, secured 3rd place for us on the next podium as well as important points. On the Sunday, unfortunately, little went according to plan. We performed badly in the qualifier and only just made it to 12th place. During the race, while gaining ground to get into the top five, I was pushed off the track and eventually had to settle for 8th.
DTM Misano (I)
Next stop Misano. On the Saturday we couldn‘t quite get our car up to its peak performance potential, so 5th place was the maximum we could salvage. For the Sunday we found the correct adjusting screws and the right race set-up, especially for the long runs, in the scorching Italian heat. From a starting position in 4th I moved immediately into 2nd place and later, during the obligatory pit stop, took the lead. After that we used our top speed, enabling me to pull away with every lap from the chasers behind me. I eventually secured this long-awaited second DTM victory (the previous victory was Norisring 2016) with almost 8 seconds advantage. W ith this, our challenge for the DTM championship was finally launched.
FC Bayern Star Thomas Müller
Immediately afterwards, I welcomed a very special guest to the Audi Driving Experience Centre in Neuburg. FC Bayern star Thomas Müller ventured behind the wheel for a photoshoot for his new YouTube series „Da Schau Hi“. Getting to know, and coaching, the likeable footballer was not only good fun but also gave us a good exposure on his social media channels and in his next YouTube series (137,000 views).
DTM Norisring (D)
It was all the more gratifying to at last let lap times speak for themselves again and to fight for important points at the climax of the DTM season at the Norisring. On the city course in the middle of Nuremberg I felt really comfortable and my Audi drove faultlessly, enabling me to gain superiority and secure pole position for Saturday’s race. The race got off to a perfect start. I maintained the lead and immediately left the others behind. That is, until disaster struck in the form of the safety car, which tore our strategy to shreds. We were already assuming that all the podium opportunities were gone, but we didn’t give up. Having the fastest car in the field, I fought my way back to 3rd and even overtook the second placed car at the last corner of the final lap. A cause for great celebration!
On Sunday, I again started the race from the first row and was about to take the lead at the first corner when, unfortunately, I got stuck in second gear. So I came out of the bend very badly, lost one place and went neck-and-neck with Rast into the second corner. He was already assuming that he was passing me and so unexpectedly moved inside. He got a small touch, which sent him into a half spin, while I incurred a heavy drive-through penalty that pushed me way down the whole field. But, having by far the fastest car in the field, I fought my way back in to secure 8th place and four important points for us in the battle for the championship.
DTM Assen (NL)
The next stop was new territory for the DTM. The high-speed track in Assen (Holland) awaited us at the halfway point of the season. In the first race, which started in the pouring rain, I began in position 6. I quickly fought my way back to 3rd. Then after recording a number of the fastest laps one after the other I started to chase the leaders Wittmann and Rast. It looked for a long time as if we could still win this race, but a poorly-timed pit stop pushed us down to 2nd behind Wittmann. We nonetheless scored some important additional points. On the Sunday, the track stayed dry and I qualified for starting position 4. In a race marked by extreme tyre wear I crossed the finishing line in 3rd and was back on the podium. So, by mid-season (after five races) I was in 2nd place in the table on 22 points, behind the leader Rast.
Brands Hatch (GB)
Returning to DTM mode we were welcomed back to the British Isles and the old-established track at Brands Hatch. Again, I was able to produce two strong races and a podium double – 3rd place on the Saturday and 2nd place on the Sunday.
This means we are currently 2nd in the table, and still in with a chance to win the 2019 DTM title. René Rast, who tops the current leader-board, will certainly be anything but easy to beat, but we will give it everything we’ve got in the remaining two race weekends at the Nürburgring and Hockenheim!