DTM: Despite unfruitful Race 2, Floersch & Hawkey mark important Assen round with first points
The second race of the DTM Dutch round wasn't as fruitful as Saturday's race for Sophia Floersch and Esmee Hawkey, but both returned from Assen with their first points in one of the world's top GT3 championships.
Saturday at Assen – sixth round of the 2021 DTM season, the first of the championship under the new GT3 regulations – turned out to be quite a defining moment for the two women of the championship: after a challenging start of her season, Sophia Floersch had a remarkable race 1 and avoided trouble to finish ninth, picking up her first points in the championship.
"P9 and 6 points. Best Audi", wrote a very happy Floersch. "I really enjoyed every lap. All Audi [cars] are not the fastest BOP cars. Thanks to all the fans for supporting me."
Similarly, Esmee Hawkey – who had continued to improve weekend after weekend in her rookie DTM season – also had the pace to finish in the Top-10 but an early contact with Floersch forced the young Brit to a recovery. Hawkey closed the gap in the final stages and was p11 across the finish line, equalling her best result in the series. With guest drivers Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Klien not being eligible for points, though, Hawkey also scored her first points in DTM – as she described the first race in Assen as a "bittersweet" one.
Hawkey, who has Dutch roots and thus felt the race weekend as almost her home race, has often turned heads for her impressive qualifying pace and was looking forward to continuing to climb the order on Sunday.
The second qualifying session turned into a one lap shootout after Floersch spun with 3 minutes to go and ended in the gravel, bringing out the red flag while she was improving her lap time. New championship leader Liam Lawson was topping the timesheets, ahead of Auer, Wittmann and Gotz. Hawkey, after another very positive first part of qualifying - often spent around the Top 10 – was P15.
The red flag was bad news for ABT Sportsline's Kelvin van der Linde: the South African still had to set a competitive lap time and, once the session resumed, he only had one shot to turn around his day. With a great effort, Van der Linde finished fifth, as Lucas Auer took a surprise pole position in the #22 Winward Mercedes; the Austrian preceded Saturday's winner Marco Wittmann (Walkenhorst BMW) and the two AF Corse Ferrari of Liam Lawson and Alex Albon.
Esmee Hawkey and Sophia Floersch slipped back to P20 and P21 in the very final seconds.
At the race start, Auer had a good getaway – unlike Wittmann, who again hesitated and gave Lawson and Albon a chance to gain positions. The soon-to-be Williams F1 driver moved ahead of his AF Corse teammate and continued to put pressure on Wittmann, but the latter defended. Floersch passed Dev Gore – the American driver making his return onto the grd after missing yesterday's round due to a qualifying crash.
In the opening laps, Esmee Hawkey had a tyre failure and spun out; the cut tyre damaged the rear bodywork of the #26 T3 Motorsport's Lamborghini Huracan and she pitted for repairs. After losing one lap, Esmee was back out on track – but her race was compromised.
The pit stop sequence started on lap 6, when Lawson, Buhk and Floersch pitted. One lap later, it would be the turn of Albon and Wittmann: the BMW Walkenhorst team had a great stop and the 2-time DTM champion rejoined ahead of both Buhk and Albon – but, crucially, Liam Lawson was back ahead of all of the early stoppers.
Bortolotti – third on Saturday in his first ever DTM race – pitted on lap 9 from the provisional lead, leaving Kelvin van der Linde, Vincent Abril, Nico Muller and Mike Rockenfeller in the front-running positions.
Floersch had rejoined in 20th place after the pit stop and managed to overtake Gore once again for P19, despite getting a warning for track limits.
Alex Albon continued his race-long battle with Marco Wittmann, but the German perfectly positioned his BMW M6 GT3.
Championship contender van der Linde stopped on lap 21 for his mandatory tyre change and rejoined just ahead of Wittmann – but the BMW driver quickly overtook the Audi R8 on warmer tyres. Van der Linde tried to fight back once his tyres reached the correct temperature window, but Wittmann proved to be impossible to pass.
Esmee Hawkey pitted and retired her car after a really unfortunate second race of the weekend.
"It was a real shame to have the tyre fail on us in the second race as I felt we had another good chance but overall I’m very happy with the weekend." – said Hawkey. "We’re on the board now and I’ll be giving it my all at Hockenheim in a couple of weeks.”
Floersch, meanwhile, advanced to P17 once Sheldon van der Linde (ROWE Racing BMW) pitted and, soon after, Daniel Juncadella's Mercedes came to a halt at the pit exit. The Spaniard, after retiring from Race 1 for the accident at the start, was running in virtual second position and completed an ill-fated round with no points.
Liam Lawson tried one final charge on Auer – now back in the effective lead of the race – but the Austrian won from pole with a convincing performance. The AF Corse Ferrari driver, though, still extended his championship lead with second place, as Kelvin van der Linde couldn't do better than fourth behind Marco Wittmann.
Alex Albon settled for fifth, with Gotz, Bortolotti, and Muller right behind. Former F1 driver Christian Klien - protagonist of a great first race on Saturday – retired on the final lap with mechanical issues, promoting Sophia Floersch to 16th place.
While it wasn't an equally exciting day for the two female racers of the championship, the Assen round remains the highlight of their season so far, with 6 points scored by Floersch and 2 by Hawkey – both at their debut season in one of the world's top GT3 championships.
“Assen is a great race track and it was great to have so many fans here – especially so many little girls." – said Floersch. "That was a lot of fun."
"On Saturday, I scored my first points in the DTM." – she continued. "That makes me happy for my engineer Laura, my mechanics and the whole team. We’ve done this now. It can continue like this.”
“I’m absolutely thrilled to have scored my first points in DTM." – echoed Esmee. "We could all feel it was coming for a long time as we’ve worked so hard and kept chipping away so I’m thrilled for the team and I’m so happy to repay them for their hard work. To be one of the first women to score points in DTM since 2012 is a great achievement and only fuels me further."
The Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters will now head back to Germany for the final two race meetings of the season on home soil: the next round will be contested at Hockenheim on 2/3 October. Historically the home of the DTM season finale, Hockenheim will be followed this year by an equally iconic German racetrack: the street circuit of Norisring, that will play host for the first time to the final race of the season on 9/10 October.