Robin Frijns (above) could not have chosen a better moment for his first victory in the DTM: The Dutch Audi driver triumphed at Assen on Saturday in front of a home crowd.
For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, spectators were admitted to a DTM race. The Audi drivers made them cheer even before the start when they held up signs in front of the main grandstand with an emotional message: “DTM fans, welcome back! We have really missed you!”
After 36 laps, the Dutch fans again had a reason to cheer: Local hero Robin Frijns from Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline crossed the finish line as the winner for the first time in his DTM career after a thrilling battle with Loïc Duval from Audi Sport Team Phoenix. “I had to wait almost three years for this moment,” said Frijns. “I came close very often, but something always happened. I’ve been on the podium in the DTM a couple of times, but never at the top. It’s fantastic that it happened here at Assen where fans were allowed back in for the first time. There really couldn’t have been a better place for my first DTM victory.”
Only on lap 30, Frijns managed to pass Loïc Duval who had been leading up to that point. The Frenchman started the race from pole position with his Audi RS 5 DTM on an initially damp track. “When you lead for so long, you want to win the race,” said Duval. “But I was fighting with the tires. In the first stint, the front tires went down, in the second the rears. With Push-to-Pass and DRS, Robin was able to catch up and overtake me just before the end. I was able to keep up until the finish but was never close enough to attack without risk. That a Dutchman wins in the Netherlands is a great story, but tomorrow I want to be at the top of the podium.”
Nico Müller defended his lead in the drivers’ championship with third place in his first DTM race as a father. The Swiss dropped from second to sixth on the opening lap. “I was stuck next to Robin (Frijns),” said Müller. “When you lose so many places at the beginning, a third place is still a good result. The tire wear was not as high as we all expected. I had a great pit stop which allowed me to pass René (Rast). Thanks for that one to the team! I’m very pleased for the guys and also my teammate Robin, who managed his first victory at his home race – very well deserved. He has often shown he can do it. Now he’s finally proven it black on white.”
Fourth place in Saturday’s race went to Mike Rockenfeller. Last year’s winner stopped very late, taking advantage of the fresher tires to move closer and closer to the leading group in the final stages. “It was enough for René (Rast), but the gap to the first three was a bit too big after the first stint.”
René Rast from Audi Sport Team Rosberg finished fifth on Saturday. “This was a difficult day for me,” said the defending champion. “In qualifying, I made a mistake on my fastest lap. From sixth on the grid I had a good start, but in the end the tires just gave up, even though I had been saving them. We have to understand that first of all.”
Teammate Jamie Green was only able to start the race with a delay due to an issue with battery. The Briton had to limit himself to gathering experience for the second race on Sunday.
Ferdinand Habsburg in eighth scored points for customer team WRT Team Audi Sport for the third time. The Austrian shone with the fourth fastest time in qualifying.
“I didn’t expect Robin to win here at Assen where tire wear is usually particularly high,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass. “I am all the more happy for him. We were very concerned about the tires before this race and had even planned two pit stops for some cars. But with the damp track at the beginning of the race, tire wear was less than expected. All drivers managed to get through with one stop. We saw fantastic racing, the 14th pole position in a row for Audi in the DTM and another 1-2-3-4-5 victory.”
Race 1 Result – 36 laps
Sheldon van der Linde
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