Kelvin van der Linde took a lights-to-flag victory in the first DTM race at the Nürburgring to take his third win of the season and extend his already commanding championship lead in the Team Abt Sportsline Audi R8 LMS.
DTM NÜRBURGRING: RACE 1 REPORT | QUALIFYING 2 REPORT | RACE 2 REPORT | GALLERY
After securing pole earlier on, the South African fended off the Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Philip Ellis at the start to the lead the first lap, and then fought off the Mercedes-AMG Team Winward driver again after an early safety car restart to recover Maxi Bühk’s Mercedes which was spun at the hairpin on the Sprint circuit.
From there, van der Linde demonstrated why he’s the man to beat so often in this 2021 DTM season as he powered off into the distance and left his rivals behind to squabble between themselves.
Pitting with just over 40 minutes of the race remaining, he came back out and set about regaining the positions he lost during his stop. First beating the ROWE Racing BMW of Tim Glock after a side-by-side duel through the Mercedes Arena section, he was soon on the back of Alex Albon’s AF Corse Ferrari 488.
With Albon running a strategy of pitting as late as possible, van der Linde made the most of his fresher Michelin rubber to get better traction out of the corners and get past the Alpha Tauri-backed driver.
If anything, it was Albon that helped the Audi driver secure his victory as he became more of a rolling road block as the race went on, quickly getting into a battle featuring Ellis and DTM debutant Luca Stolz in a Toksport WRT-prepared Mercedes.
The trio did battle for a number of laps, but the decisive moment happened on the run through the chicane at the end of the lap. Albon widened out his Ferrari, which forced Ellis to take to the grass to avoid contact. The Swiss driver gained a place in the melee and allowed both Albon and – because of how close the trio were running – Stolz to get past.
The Ferrari racer didn’t have a chance to see how his late stop strategy would have worked, as he was pushed into the garage with an issue when he finally came in for his mandatory stop.
When the last of the pit stoppers cycled through, van der Linde had more than 10 seconds on Stolz – who had cycled up to second. The latter tried to cut down the deficit but ran out of laps to do so, eventually crossing the line just over four seconds behind.
Ellis faded as the race went on, having stopped on the 40 minutes-to-go mark, but managed to hold on to take the last spot on the podium just half-a-second ahead of Mike Rockenfeller, who pitted with just over 10 minutes left in his Team Abt Sportsline Audi.
Maxi Götz had a relatively quiet run to fifth overall, benefitting from two solid getaways in the proper start and the restart to sweep into the top five – leaping ahead of Marco Wittmann, who made up for a poor first start with a good restart, but the BMW racer faded in the second half of the race.
Sheldon van der Linde ensured two BMWs finished in the points with seventh in his ROWE Racing M6 GT3, with Nico Müller eighth after a pair of five-second penalties for track limits and pushing another competitor relegated him down the order.
Mercedes-AMG GT3s rounded out the top ten, with Dani Juncadella taking ninth, ahead of Team GetSpeed’s Arjun Maini who put in a great battling performance to score his first points of the year in 10th.
In the championship standings, Kelvin van der Linde now has a 45-point lead over Maxi Götz, who has leaped ahead of Liam Lawson into second after a tough race for the Ferrari racer having been spun by Markus Winklehock – covering for Sophia Flörsch at Team Abt while she’s at Le Mans.
Please consider making a donation so we can keep bringing you our best content from the racetrack.