First free practice: Ekström is Audi’s solemn spearhead
An unusually busy Friday is awaiting the DTM drivers at the Nürburgring, September 25. Conditions could hardly have been better. Already in roll-out at 9.30 hrs, the cars headed out onto the track in sunny Eifel weather. The 35 minutes long first session of the penultimate DTM race weekend of the 2015 season only was the start. Some two hours after roll-out, the action started in earnest for the drivers: at 12.05 hrs, Mike Rockenfeller was the first to go out in the first timed DTM session, as almost every time this year. At the end of the 45 minutes’ first free practice session, Mattias Ekström, runner-up in the drivers’ standings, posted the first fastest time of the weekend in the Eifel. BMW’s Augusto Farfus ended up second from his fellow BMW driver Marco Wittmann. While BMW had five and Mercedes-Benz had four cars among the ten fastest, Ekström was Audi’s solemn spearhead after first free practice.
Every driver having completed a fast lap after eight minutes, Rockenfeller, fellow Audi driver Adrien Tambay and Mercedes-Benz driver Gary Paffett ranked at the top of the timing screen. Only one minute later, the BMWs struck back: Marco Wittmann was the first to post a lap time under 1:24 minutes and moved up into first place with a time of 1:23.969 minutes from his fellow BMW driver Maxime Martin (1:24.032 minutes). While Wittmann improved his time to 1:23.758 minutes on the following lap, Paul Di Resta also lapped under 1:24 minutes soon after that and moved up to split the two BMWs with his Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM (1:22.883 minutes). Rockenfeller’s and Tambay’s times remained fast enough for fourth and fifth place respectively and this order was to remain in place for 25 minutes.
Seven minutes before the end of the session, Mattias Ekström came to the fore and moved up into the lead with 1:23.679 minutes. In the remaining time, none of the drivers succeeded in completing the 3.629 kilometres long lap of the Nürburgring sprint circuit any faster. However, some drivers still managed to improve their own times: Augusto Farfus set his personal best on his penultimate lap (1:23.717 minutes) and Tom Blomqvist moved up to fourth (1:23.845 minutes). Mercedes-Benz drivers Paul Di Resta (1:23.883 minutes), Gary Paffett (1:23.892 minutes) and Lucas Auer (1:23.992 minutes) ranked in fifth to seventh place. With his BMW M4 DTM, António Félix da Costa set the slowest lap time in the 1:23 range (1:23.999 minutes) and ended up eighth-fastest. Maximilian Götz was ninth (1:24.005 minutes) and Martin’s time, posted early in the session, was enough for tenth place.
On Friday already, the 24 drivers will go out on track again. Second free practice in the Eifel starts at 16:15 hrs. The session, that would normally take place on Saturday, will mark the final test before the second day for the DTM drivers at the Nürburgring kicks off at 10.15 hrs with qualifying for the 40 minutes’ race, that will get underway at 13.25 hrs.