Philipp Eng takes DTM maiden win at Zolder

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Philipp Eng earned an emotional maiden victory as the DTM returned to its birthplace at Belgium’s Zolder circuit.

The Austrian BMW driver benefited from a mid-race Safety Car period, that carved the race in half, and enabled him to take full advantage of an early stop for tyres to take victory in DTM at his 23rd attempt.

Having started from the fourth row after qualifying seventh, Eng benefited from a Safety Car intervention to retrieve the stranded R-Motorsport Aston Martins of Daniel Juncadella and Jake Dennis.The Safety Car wound the field in for five laps and enabled Eng, who along with a clutch of other drivers had already completed his mandatory mid-race stop, to narrow the gap to the leaders.

At the restart, the Austrian also overtook his fellow BMW driver Joel Eriksson (SWE), the decisive manoeuvre of the race, moved past Rene Rast and established a small but critical lead at the front.

I’m probably the happiest person in the world!” said Eng afterwards. “I’m so glad to be in the DTM, so happy to be racing for BMW. Winning is simply fantastic. This is the scenario I’ve always dreamt of."

"However, reality is much better than the dream by far – although the last five, six laps felt as long as a 24-hour race! There was some luck involved as well, but I reckon we deserved this win.”

For Eng’s squad, BMW Team RBM, victory in the third race of the current DTM season was also a much-celebrated home win. The team, run by Bart Mampaey, is based in Mechelen, only 72 kilometres from Zolder.

After a lengthy battle to fend off the advances of Mueller, runner-up Eriksson commented: “That was one of the most difficult races of my life. I didn’t made any mistakes, but, towards the end, Nico put me under massive pressure. Luckily, I was able to keep him at bay – even though, towards the end, my tyres were worn considerably.”

Mueller added: “Overtaking around here is really difficult. I tried to keep the pressure up until the end, but I was struggling with tyre degradation myself in the closing stages. Still, we can be really happy with the result.”

Behind BMW’s Eng and Eriksson, Audi’s Nico Müller (SUI) came third, while Aston Martin scored points with eighth and ninth place for Paul Di Resta (GBR) and Ferdinand von Habsburg (AUT).

The Safety Car gave the early stoppers a clear advantage: fourth position went to Loïc Duval (FRA, Audi), who had completed his stop on the same lap as race winner Eng. Due to a jump start, Duval had to additionally complete a five-second stop-go penalty in the pits. Right behind him, fellow Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller (GER) finished fifth.

After a poor qualifying performance, Rockenfeller worked his way up after making his mandatory pit-stop, followed by another precautionary stop during the Safety Car intervention. Paul Di Resta (GBR, Aston Martin) also used a two-stop strategy to work his way up from 16th on the grid to eighth at the finish.

It was an emotional day for the Austrian, who finally took victory in his 23rd DTM star

 

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