Mixed weather and tough luck for Sophie Hofmann at Spa-Francorchamps
Difficult weather conditions at Spa made for an extra challenge for Sophie Hofmann, who has been battling bad luck and BOP in the second half of the DTM Trophy season. Nevertheless, the young German was P12 on Sunday, in an overall positive second race.
DTM Trophy returned to the track on the weekend from 9th to 11th of September at Spa Francorchamps, Belgium - and the fifth round was off to a bumpy start for Sophie Hofmann (HEIDE-MOTORSPORT), who had engine issues in free practice. The 24-year-old racer was forced to sit out entirely the first free practice session on Friday.
In the first qualifying on Saturday, Hofmann managed to set the 14th fastest time, despite the wet conditions - as well as tyre and strategy problems.
In the first race, however, rain drizzled down even more than in qualifying - and it got heavier enough for the race to be started with the Safety Car leading the pack. The green flag waved again with around 26 minutes left on the clock.
Theo Oeverhaus (Walkenhorst Motorsport) led from Daniel Gregor (KÜS Team Bernhard) and Nick Hancke (Speed Monkeys).
Tim Heinemann (Toyota Gazoo Racing Germany Powered by Ring Racing), the current championship leader, started from 6th position, but managed to make his way up to 4th quickly, as he worked to catch up the top 3.
Hofmann dropped down to 17th place, but pushed hard to keep up the pace in the heavy rain. She showed some good pace during the race, but couldn't catch up with the group of cars ahead.
Oeverhaus was overtaken for the lead by Gregor and, on lap 5, they continued to battle for the top spot in an exciting duel that Gregor ultimately won. Meanwhile, Heinemann was back to fifth.
Daniel Gregor won, preceding Theo Oeverhaus and Thiago Vivacqua (Heide-Motorsport).
Hofmann was P17.
The second race day was a less rainy one and qualifying on Sunday morning was dry. Sophie Hofmann had a good start into qualifying, but struggled to secure a top-10 start due to a very unfavourable Balance of Performance for her Audi R8 LMS GT4. She was ultimately P18.
Under sunnier skies, race 2 got underway with the leaders Tim Heinemann, Jacob Riegel (Speed Monkeys) and Daniel Gregor (KÜS Team Bernhard) getting away well.
Right after the start, Sophie Hofmann was able to overtake several cars and claimed P14. Soon after, though, a collision between Marc de Fulgencio (FK Performance Motorsport) and Louis Henkefend (Project 1) took both cars out of the race and required the intervention of the Safety Car with around 29 minutes to go.
All cars went through the pit lane on the second lap; Colin Caresani (Project 1) was also affected by the incident and dropped to the end of the field, as Hofmann gained P13.
The safety car was brought back in at the end of lap 2 and the race resumed for the final 23 minutes: Hofmann lost a couple of positions, but was back in P14 when Daniel Gregor had to park his car off the track for a mechanical issue and retired.
A really intense battle between Moritz Löhner (Walkenhorst Motorsport) and Jacob Riegel (Speed Monkeys) saw the two drivers fighting for second place and there was more brilliant racing action from Rodrigo Almeida (BWT Mücke Motorsport) and Nick Hancke (Speed Monkeys), fighting for a place in the top 5. With 24 seconds left on the clock, Hancke overtook Almeida and claimed the spot in P5.
As an additional lap was added due to the safety car intervention, Ricky Capo (KÜS Team Bernhard) had to retire his car with a flat tire in the closing stages of the race. Sophie Hofmann continued to climb the order and moved into P12 - where she would eventually finish in a more promising performance.
Heinemann claimed victory in Race 1, with a lights to flag sweep. Theo Oeverhaus and Moritz Löhner rounded out the podium.
"Race 1 was wet and the only halfway good session", Sophie wrote. "Just unlucky with tyre pressure strategy."
While she wasn't impressed by the BOP in the second qualifying, she described the second race with a "pretty good start and first laps, but that's it."
Hofmann has been incredibly unlucky in the last couple of rounds since her breakthrough performance at Norisring, where she scored points in both races.
DTM Trophy will be back on track in two weeks, from 23rd to 25th of September, at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.