The inaugural season of the BMW M2 Cup reached its penultimate round at Assen: despite an unlucky couple of races for the Kreutzpointner twins, they were again close to the Top10, as Sophia Menzenbach continues an impressive development.
With the DTM approaching its final race weekends, the inaugural season of the BMW M2 Cup - a one-make series designed to help young drivers moving up the ladder of touring cars on the DTM platform - reached its fifth round at Assen, Netherlands.
At the famous TT Circuit, the drivers hit the track two weeks after the Red Bull Ring event, where Sophia Menzenbach - one of the five female drivers to have started in the series - claimed a stunning fifth place to record her best result so far.
The Austrian round was defined by a shower of track limits penalties, which shuffled the order of race 2. Jacqueline and Alesia Kreutzpointner - competing for the first time this year alongside each other and not sharing a car - have been consistently in the Top-10 and scoring points regularly. Jacqueline was getting closer to her first Top5, before a streak of unfortunate rounds put the "racing twins" on the wrong foot.
But the title for unluckiest driver of the series has to go to Marcelina 'Mery' Czepiel: the young Polish lady, making a step up from national touring cars to the powerful BMW M2 on the DTM platform, was significantly closer to the Top-10 weekend after weekend, showing visible improvements. Nevertheless, her races have been often hampered by contacts, incidents and technical issues, denying her of better results.
At Assen, Czepiel was missing from the entry lists - as well as Carrie Schreiner, whose clashing round with Italian GT at Vallelunga meant that the women on track were down to three.
Team Driverse - the first squad entirely focused on promoting diversity and inclusion in motorsport - lined up guest entry Leonard Hoogenboom; the Dutch racer took an impressive pole position on home soil, preceding Maxime Oosten, championship leader Louis Henkefend and Colin Caresani, another Dutch driver who had made his debut in Austria.
Jacqueline Kreutzpointner took the start from the fourth row of the grid in eighth place, while her sister Alesia was a bit further behind in P13; Sophia Menzenbach lined up in 15th.
As the lights went out, Hoogenboom closed the door on Oosten - allowing Henkefend to go all around the outside in a 3-way battle for the lead at Turn 1. The championship leader went wide and through the run off, but rejoined eahed of his rivals and kept the lead. At the tight Turn 5, Fabian Kreim made a mistake and hit Oosten under braking - triggering the first Safety Car of the day. Both were out with suspension damages.
After the first action-filled lap, Henkefend led Hoogenboom, Caresani and Schrey. Jacqueline Kreitzpointner dropped to tenth, while Sophia Menzenbach moved up to 12th place.
The race resumed on lap 3, but one lap later it was drama for the race leader: the #17 BMW of Henkefend was hit under braking by Hoogenboom and spun out, leaving the Ducth racer ahead of the field. He would receive a drive through for causing the collision.
Jacqueline Kreutzpointner closed in on Von Zabiensky and the two battled for eighth place: the young woman initially got through, but von Zabiensky fought back at the final chicane.
Menzenbach, who had continued to move up the order until 10th place, received a 10-second time penalty for incorrect grid position, compromising her progression.
Kreutzpointner's on-track battles gave the chance to Henkefend to make up more positions after being spun around on lap 4. Menzenbach had also sneaked ahead of Von Zabiensky and Kreutzpointner, moving into eighth place.
Just like Henkefend, Hoogenboom charged back and quickly reached the ninth position, overtaking Menzenbach.
On lap 11, Theo Oeverhaus cut his way to the front of the field and, with an elbows-out move passed Almeida. The resulting contact gained him a warning.
Colin Caresani, who had inherited the lead once his compatriot Hoogenboom took the way of the pitlane to serve the drive through, came under pressure from Schrey in the final stages.
After an exciting battle for victory the duel between Caresani and Schrey saw the Dutch racer taking home victory, with Kajaia taking third from tenth on the grid.
After a battling race, Jacqueline Kreutzpointner finished P11, just outside the Top-10, having not found her way past Michael von Zabiensky.
"Assen was not a great weekend for me." - Jacqueline recalled. "On Saturday, a car spun right in front of me. Meanwhile, some competitors were able to pass me who were normally much slower. Wrong place at the wrong time."
Alesia was just behind in 12th place; the penalty demoted Sophia Menzenbach to P13 after another strong performance by the German driver.
"After a slow start, I was still able to catch up and maintain my pace" - said Menzenbach.
"P9 wasn't bad, but unfortunately I received a penalty. The important things are the big steps I take" - she added.
Hoogenboom, ninth in Race 1 at his series debut, was again in pole position for the second race of the weekend, sharing the front row of the grid with Louis Henkefend. Saturday's winner Colin Caresani and Michael Schrey followed from the second row.
It surely was a tougher task for the three women of the championship, lining up in 11th, 13th and 15th place: Jacqueline Kreutzpointner led her sister Alesia and Sophia Menzenbach from row 6.
Henkefend had a great start from second place but was squeezed by the defending Hoogenboom - as Caresani also tried to join the party and attempted to attack his compatriot on the first lap.
Jacqueline went off in the gravel, pushed off by Michael von Zabiensky. She rejoined in P15, while Alesia had a good getaway and gained a position to slot in P12.
The top-three pulled away, but their constant battles allowed Oosten and Oeverhaus to close in: it was now a three-car fight for the podium positions, until race leader Hoogenboom received a drive through - his second this weekend - for a jump start.
The field bunched up again and Michael Schrey was now in the mix as well. On lap 9, the frontrunners went 4-wide for the lead, with Oeverhaus going around the outside of Oosten and moving to third. His charge, though, was not over and he overtook Henkefend on lap13 for second. These battles played in favour of Caresani, who initially could open a small safe gap - but once Oeverhaus cleared his rivals, he was quickly glued to the rear bumper or the race leader.
Meanwhile, Alesia and Jacqueline Kreutzpointner recovered a few places and found themselves in P11 and P12, while Sophia Menzenbach was pushed off by Von Zabiensky and dropped to 14th.
With 30 seconds remaining on the clock, Oeverhaus clinched the top spot with a great pass on the last lap and took the chequered flag to take victory. Caresani was second, preceding Henkefend and Schrey.
Alesia Kreutzpointner finished eleventh, gaining two positions from her starting place. It wasn't the luckiest weekend for her sister Jacqueline either, who finished P13, just ahead of Sophia Menzenbach - both having survived contacts on Sunday's race.
"On Sunday, I didn't get a good start and was hit directly on the first lap and had to save my car." - explained Jacqueline Kreutzpointner after what it turned out to be a rather challenging round. "I tried to make the best of it. I made up the gap, overtook a lot of people and got points."
"Unfortunately, race weekends like this happen. I analysed the weekend for myself and put it behind me. I'm really looking forward to my home race at the Norisring. It's a dream come true to race there!" - she added.
After five rounds, Louis Henkefend leads the points standings by 17 points on Fabian Kreim. Georgian driver Davit Kajaia is third, just two points clear of Nicolas Hancke. Jacqueline Kreutzpointner sits in an encouraging seventh place (66 points), with Menzenbach in 10th and Alesia Kreutzpointner in 12th place overall.
"We only have one race weekend left in the BMW M2 Cup" - reflects Alesia Kreutzpointner. "I've been able to develop enormously so far and I'm proud to be part of the series."
"The organizer Project 1 and BMW have created something really great. Now it's time to attack one last time at the Norisring."
The BMW M2 Cup will now get ready for the season finale on one of Germany's most iconic racetracks: the Norisring. The street circuit will in fact host the final race of the DTM season for the first time on 8/10 October.