P9 and first points for Sophia Floersch in DTM
In a wild first race at Assen, Sophia Floersch made her way up the field to finish P9 and secured her first points in DTM - with also Esmee Hawkey scoring her first points of the season in P11.
“It has been a tough year for me as the level in DTM is extremely high. But it is getting better and better.” With these words, Sophia Floersch went into the sixth round of the DTM season - her first in one of the most competitive GT3 championships in the world. Floersch, who is also combining a program in World Endurance Championship and has raced in the last two editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is moving her first steps in GT3 cars, amidst a field of the most experienced racers in the business and having started the season with the revolutionary "Space Drive" steer-by-wire system - an experimental steering system that features no mechanical links with the front wheels. The young German had a challenging first few rounds but continued to learn despite a series of unfortunate technical issues that hampered her first half of the season. At the wheel of the #99 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo by ABT Sportsline, Floersch can count on two massively experienced teammates such as Kelvin van der Linde - who entered the Dutch round as the championship leader - and DTM veteran Mike Rockenfeller. “Kelvin van der Linde is a very good GT3 driver." - explained Floersch on the eve of the event. "He is fast in every race. He is leaving nothing untested, but there is still a long way to go with different tracks until the battle for the title has been decided.” Also in her first season in DTM is 23-year old British driver Esmee Hawkey. Having joined the field in a last minute deal with T3 Motorsport, Hawkey has often shown great speed in qualifying and impressed in the first half of the season with a streak of positive results just outside the points scoring positions. Heading to the 4.555 km-long TT Circuit Assen, Hawkey feels like she was about to tackle her home race: “I’m looking forward to getting out on track here at Assen,” Esmee said. “I’m excited to experience it in a GT3 car. I always enjoy coming to the Netherlands, it will be like my home race this weekend as my mother is Dutch and I'll have some of my Dutch family here supporting me too which will be fantastic." The Deutsche Tourenwagen Master, this year in its first season adopting the cost-effective GT3 regulations, has made the trip to the Netherlands for 21 years, making the event one of the most popular on the calendar. Assen returned to the calendar in 2019, when Hawkey competed in W Series on the DTM support package. "We held our own at the Red Bull Ring and fought through the field quite well. Assen is an equally fast track with some long straights and high-speed corners. I'm feeling motivated and ready for the weekend.” - added Esmee, at her first appearance in GT3 machinery at the track. “The track at Assen looks cool." - echoed Floersch. I am also preparing with data and videos and I hope to be able to find my rhythm more quickly like that.” “It is simply fascinating that spectators are admitted again, also into the paddock. Taking photos, making selfies, signing autographs, that is great.” Liam Lawson put his #30 AF Corse Ferrari on pole position on Saturday morning, edging Marco Wittmann (Walkenhorst BMW) and Maximilian Gotz (BWT Mercedes HRT). Both Floersch and Hawkey had issues with their cars in qualifying and lined up in P19 and P20 respectively. The latter reported a power box failure that prevented her from setting a competitive laptime: "There is so much more potential so we'll be fighting hard to be further up where we belong!" - she wrote.
When the lights went out, the front row of the grid hesitated, triggering a pile-up in the midfield that involved Arjun Maini, Daniel Juncadella, Vincent Abril among the others. Wittmann was also hit, as Gotz tried to take evasive action, with the main straight scattered of debris. Lawson, Wittmann and DTM rookie Mirko Bortolotti went side-by-side into the first corner, but it would be the New Zealander to retain the lead, followed by the T3 Motorsport Lamborghini guest entry of Bortolotti in his first ever DTM start before the Safety Car was deployed. Sophia Floersch had a safe start and made it out unscathed from the first lap in P17, just behind Hawkey, who had managed to get ahead of Rockenfeller on the first lap. The race resumed on lap 4 and Lawson had a great launch, despite having to watch his mirrors from Mirko Bortolotti. The Italian was more aggressive and made it into the lead one lap later, but his guest driver status meant that Lawson opted not to fight back. Gotz was struggling to get past Wittmann for third and pitted as soon as on lap 7: his undercut worked out perfectly and, once his rivals stopped in the following laps, he would jump ahead of both Wittmann and Lawson to take the virtual leadership of the early stoppers. Bortolotti's stop was also not as fast as Gotz's and the Italian would slot behind the Mercedes AMG GT3. Sophia Floersch and Esmee Hawkey pitted on lap 8 and 9 - rejoining the race in P13 and P16 once Alex Albon retired into the pits, as well as Nico Muller and Timo Glock. The Safety Car was back out again on lap 15 to remove a few debris left on track - messing up Kelvin van der Linde and Mike Rockenfeller's strategies: the two Audi ABT Sportsline drivers, in fact, had stayed out and were leading the race, with also Maximilian Buhk still having to pit in third. At the green flag Bortolotti fell behind Wittmann and Esmee Hawkey battled with Sophia Floersch: they made contact and the British driver spun off but rejoined the race. Esteban Muth (T3 Motorsport) was also looking aggressive in Lucas Auer's mirrors: from that fight, Christian Klien emerged with his JP Motorsport's McLaren, sneaking ahead of both. During the action-packed central phase of the race, Marco Wittmann reclaimed the virtual lead of the race with an elbows-out pass on Gotz, pushing the Mercedes drivers off in the gravel that also gained Lawson a position. Wittmann would receive a 5 second time penalty for the incident - leaving the BMW racer in a hurry to pass Rockenfeller and pull away. After a long battle, Wittmann eventually moved ahead of Rockenfeller - who continued to hold up the rest of the pack - and outstandingly extended his gap to over 5 seconds. Once Kelvin van der Linde finally pitted on lap 33, Wittmann's first place materialized, ahead of Bortolotti who had overtaken Lawson for second on the same lap. Sophia Floersch had a very solid race in P12: the German remained close to the pack and closed in on Muth in the final stages, to advance into tenth place once her teammates van der Linde and Rockenfeller pitted. Despite the spin, Hawkey also recovered in the final laps and moved into P11. After 35 laps, Marco Wittmann took an impressive victory for team Walkenhorst, overcoming a 5-second time penalty. At his first race in the series, Mirko Bortolotti was second across the line - but the 18 points for second place will go to Liam Lawson, third at the finish line but satisfied enough having just snatched the championship lead from Kelvin van der Linde. Gotz held on to fourth despite the late pressure by Christian Klien, with Sheldon van der Linde finishing sixth. Sophia Floersch was ninth across the line, gaining one position from Lucas Auer's time penalty due to a pit stop infringement. Floersch therefore scores her first points of her career in DTM - six valuable points ahead of tomorrow's second race in Assen. She was classified as the best Audi in the race - with the R8 having taken a toll from BoP. Esmee Hawkey equalled her best finish in the series and also scored her first points in P11, with guest drivers being effectively invisible in the standings and ineligible for points. Esmee described her first race of the weekend as bittersweet, having scored her first points but also being handed a 3 place grid drop tomorrow. DTM will hit the track again tomorrow morning for the second qualifying session at 10:00 CEST, while Race two will go green at 13.00 local.