Jack Aitkin became the first English driver in four years to take a victory in the DTM Championship with a lights-to-flag win in race one at the Lausitzring. Driving the Emil Frey Racing Ferrari 296 GT3, Aitkin came home first ahead of Mirko Bortolotti and Kelvin van der Linde.
Championship leader Thomas Preining had a day to forget with a poor qualifying session which saw him start from P16 followed by an early penalty in the race that effectively ended any hope of a solid points finish.
Aitken took the win having achieved his first DTM pole position driving the Ferrari 296 GT3. He set the fastest race lap with a time of 1:19.937 minutes during the first qualifying session at the DEKRA Lausitzring.
Aitken quickly got his Pirelli tires to optimal temperature and secured his pole position on his sixth lap. Mirko Bortolotti in a Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2 from SSR Performance finished second, trailing Aitken by just 0.054 seconds. Aitken and Bortolotti were the only drivers to break the 1:20.000-minute mark during qualifying.
Lucas Auer of Mercedes-AMG Team Winward took third place in the Mercedes-AMG GT3. Kelvin van der Linde and Ricardo Feller from Abt Sportsline secured fourth and fifth place, respectively.
The qualifying session took place on the 3.478-kilometer Lausitzring track with temperatures around 25 degrees Celsius. The session started tactically, with most drivers waiting before taking to the track, and the action intensified in the final five minutes.
Aitken initially set a time under 1:20.000 minutes, which was then surpassed by Bortolotti before Aitken reclaimed the top spot. The top three drivers were within eight-hundredths of a second of each other, highlighting the competitiveness of the DTM. Only eight-tenths of a second separated the top 23 drivers in terms of lap times.
Aitken’s pole position is a major breakthrough for him in the DTM having been competitive all season, but this is his first time starting from the front row.
At the start, Aitkin held the lead into the first turn whilst Mirko Bortolotti in second place successfully held off a challenge from Lucas Auer. However, trouble in the pack saw a safety car called as the #8 Audi of Lucas Engstler ended up in the gravel following contact with the Lamborghini of Franck Perera and championship leader Thomas Preining in the Manthey Racing Porsche.
Perera saw his race ended with suspension damage whilst the Stewards put the blame on Preining issuing him with three trips through the penalty area which dumped him to the back of the field.
Following the pitstops Kelvin van der Linde was able to grab third place from Lucas Auer who then found himself in a fight for fourth place with Sheldon van der Linde. At the front Kelvin van der Linde was keen to take P2 from Bortolotti but the Italian was up to the challenge and held the position leaving the South African to take third place and his first podium in nearly a year.
Preining finished in P15 which saw him retain the lead in the championship but second-placed Mirko Bortolotti is now just 8 points behind the championship leader.
Race two will take place on Sunday with qualifying at 08:35 CET and the race itself getting underway at 12:30 CET.
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