DTM: Esmee Hawkey tops best result in the series in Zolder Race 1
Despite a first lap incident, Esmee Hawkey recovered to P13 and topped her best result in DTM so far in the first Zolder race. Sophia Floersch was 15th after a challenging day.
Esmee Hawkey and Sophia Floersch's journey in DTM - one of the world's top GT championships after its switch to GT3 machinery - continued at Zolder, third round of the 2021 season. At the 'home of DTM' - having hosted the very first race of the championship in 1984 - the two female drivers of the series were eyeing a cleaner race after their challenging round in Lausitzring: a fuel pump issue severely hampered Sophia Floersch's second ever weekend in GT3 cars, while Esmee Hawkey walked away from a big impact at the banked Turn 1 that left the British driver luckily unhurt, but her T3 Motorsport Lamborghini with significant damages. Still, she fought back in Race 2, where both collected valuable experience for their rookie campaigns. At Zolder - a proper old school circuit with not much room for error - the drivers found mixed weather conditions on Friday, with a mostly wet FP1 and a completely wet FP2. On Saturday morning, the track was still damp when qualifying went underway, but the conditions improved lap after lap. Kelvin van der Linde (ABT Sportsline Audi) claimed pole position ahead of Maximilian Gotz (HRT Mercedes) and Marco Wittmann (Walkenhorst BMW). With times continuing to drop, Esmee Hawkey managed to finish ahead of Sophia Floersch by 0.005 seconds, as they lined up in 18th and 19th place. At the race start, unfortunately, Hawkey spun into Turn 1 as she tried to avoid the car of Juncadella in front of her and went to the tail end of the field. Floersch had to take evasive action and dropped to P19 - but a big crash into Turn 5 brought out the Safety Car at the end of the first lap: Juncadella was deep at the chicane and hit Muller and Maini, with the Indian crashing into Liam Lawson. All of them were forced to retire, with the exception of Muller. Meanwhile, Marco Wittmann had moved into second place ahead of Gotz, and series newcomer and former F1 driver Christian Klien (JP Motorsport McLaren) avoided the chaos to slot into 12th place. With the intervention of the Safety Car, Floersch and Hawkey were able to get back in the pack and restarted from P16 and P17. The race resumed on lap 5 and Maximilian Buhk was soon off the track and into the gravel at Turn 1 - which gained both the female drivers a position. He would get back ahead one lap later though, as Hawkey also overtook Floersch for 16th place. On Lap 6, the round of pit stops saw Vincent Abril (HRT Mercedes) diving into the pitlane, followed by Ellis - who had just pulled an outstanding multiple pass at the restart to pass 3 competitors. Sheldon van der Linde and Nico Muller were also among the early stoppers. Kelvin van der Linde and Marco Wittmann pitted from the lead one lap later, as did most of the grid. The South African just about edged the BMW driver after the tyre change, but once on track, Vincent Abril slotted in between the two. Christian Klien and Esmee Hawkey pitted on lap 8 and rejoined in 16th and 17th position. It was Mike Rockenfeller to make the most of his strategy, as the Audi ABT Sportsline driver slotted into the virtual second place behind his teammate van der Linde, having started from 6th on the grid. Albon, Gore, Buhk and Floersch opted for a different strategy and stayed out; Albon pitted on lap 14, stalled at the restart, but still rejoined in the virtual third place, behind Rockenfeller. Floersch waited until lap 22, having found a good pace on used tyres that allowed the young German to set her personal best on lap 19. Once she had finally completed her stop, she was P17, approximately 4 seconds behind Esmee Hawkey. On the cold new tyre, Floersch struggled in the first laps of the second stint, which gave Hawkey the chance to extend her gap to over 8 seconds. Meanwhile, the leading trio caught up with Maximilan Buhk - the last driver to pit - and passed him. Van der Linde, Rockenfeller and Albon remained within a second of each other throughout the second half of the race, but the track layout made it extra difficult to attempt a move. When Albon had seemed the closest to launch an attack, he went deep at the chicane and had to back off. Esmee Hawkey gained a position on Dev Gore once the American completed his late stop. On the new rubber, Floersch was then half-a-second per lap quicker than Gore, but couldn't close the gap to the Team Rosberg Audi. Buhk pitted on lap 35 - but a technical issue then prevented the Mucke Motorsport Mercedes to rejoin the track. After 39 laps, Kelvin van der Linde crossed the finish line to secure his second win of the season, ahead of Mike Rockenfeller and Alexander Albon. The DTM rookie thus became the first second-time winner this season. His brother Sheldon (Rowe Racing BMW) received a 5-second penalty for an "incorrect position at the start"that dropped him to P16. This promoted Esmee Hawkey to 13th place: despite her first lap incident, the British lady was thus able to top her best result so far in the series. Sophia Floersch was 15th across the line following a last lap spin at Turn 1, where she was able to avoid damages after a very light contact with the barrier. It was her fourth P15 finish out of five races contested so far. “Today was a positive day, we had good race pace and made it count as much as we could." - said Esmee after Race 1.
"I would’ve liked to qualify a bit higher up so that’s something we’ll work on ahead of tomorrow, but our performance in the race was very promising."
"The spin was unfortunate but that fired me up even more to finish the race strong." - she added. "A huge thank you to the team as always, we’re continuously improving and moving forwards so I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow!” At their third DTM outing, Hawkey and Floersch continue to learn the secrets of their cars and will have another chance to try to score their first championship points tomorrow with another qualifying and race scheduled.