Races in Zolder, Belgium can already bring the decision
Home advantage for Nico Müller’s teammate Robin Frijns
René Rast victorious last year at Zolder
Final spurt in the DTM: After a short break, four races within eight days on October 10, 11, 17 and 18 are on the agenda at Zolder, Belgium, that could decide the fight for the drivers’ title.
With championship leader Nico Müller (242 points), his teammate Robin Frijns (224 points) and title defender René Rast (195 points), three Audi drivers are fighting for the prestigious title. In purely mathematical terms, four more drivers still have a chance, but after the first of the four races at Zolder on Saturday, the title fight could be reduced to the three most outstanding drivers of the season.
“At the Nürburgring, you’ve seen how quickly you can lose points,” says Nico Müller, who won two of the four races in the Eifel, but also came “only” fifth twice due to a sensor issue and a collision.
The fact that Robin Frijns, currently his toughest rival in the title fight, is his own teammate at Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, does not bother the Swiss – quite the opposite is the case: “Robin and I are friends and have been able to handle this special situation well so far. I think that working so closely together makes us just so strong compared to the other teams.”
“There are still three weekends to go, six races and lots of points for grabs, anything can still happen,” says Robin Frijns. “We have to keep working hard and see where we stand after the second Zolder weekend. Then it’s ‘all in!’ for the finale at Hockenheim.”
René Rast from Audi Sport Team Rosberg is already 47 points behind Nico Müller and 29 behind Robin Frijns. “Unfortunately, the gap has remained more or less the same over the last few races, we’re simply not getting any closer,” says the two-time DTM champion. “We only have three weekends left and a lot has to happen to catch up with Nico and Robin. But of course, we’re not giving up.”
All three title candidates like the track at Zolder. “Last year, Zolder was new for me,” says Nico Müller. “The track is exciting, ‘oldschool’ – a real challenge and really spectacular with our DTM cars. There’s a new asphalt this year, so probably even more grip. That means even more fun in the car for us.”
Zolder is a home game for Robin Frijns. “I live only 30 minutes away and know the track very well,” says the Dutchman. “Zolder is a small Nordschleife that doesn’t forgive mistakes – I like that. In qualifying, you’ve got to nail a good lap because overtaking is extremely difficult at Zolder. I was already fast there last year – and with my qualifying pace this year I’m really optimistic.”
Frijns started from pole position five times in 2020 and is the only driver who started from one of the top three grid positions in all twelve races. This season, Frijns collected 26 points in qualifying alone, Müller 21, Rast 17.
The defending champion also has fond memories of Zolder. “I won the Sunday race there last year,” says Rast. “The track is pretty cool. It’s right in the middle of nature. There are hardly any run-off zones. I agree with Robin: It’s like a little Nordschleife.”
For Loïc Duval, Mike Rockenfeller and Jamie Green the season has been rather mixed so far. In Zolder, however, everyone wants to hunt for points. “I already liked the track and the atmosphere last year,” says Duval. “Especially in the second race on Sunday the racing was really good,” remembers Rockenfeller. “I managed to take third place at Zolder on Sunday last year with a spectacular move on the last lap,” says Green.
“I hope that we will see fascinating racing again at Zolder,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass. “Last year BMW was strong there. Now that the titles in the manufacturers’ and teams’ classifications can no longer be taken away from us, it’s a matter of securing the drivers’ title as well. This would be a perfect conclusion to the Class 1 era of the DTM, which was very much dominated by Audi.”
Audi has won 22 of 30 DTM races with the current RS 5 DTM since 2019, achieved 69 of 90 possible podiums, 24 of 30 pole positions (most recently 19 in a row), 76 of 90 top 3 positions in qualifying and 23 of 30 fastest race laps. A large part of this impressive record is due to the two-liter four-cylinder TFSI engine newly developed for 2019, whose specific consumption in the rev range under full load has been improved by around ten percent compared to the old V8 engine. The TFSI technology, which is successful in motorsport, also ensures lower fuel consumption and thus lower CO2 emissions in many Audi road cars.
Image: René Rast, Nico Müller