The first race on Saturday was won by René Rast. For the three-time DTM Champion, it was already victory number 25 in the DTM and yet a very special one: it was his first victory for ABT Sportsline and the first in the DTM with a GT3 car.
Rast laid the foundation for his first triumph with the ABT Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II with a perfect lap in qualifying. In the race, he successfully fended off an attack from Nico Müller in the first corner and was dispatched much quicker by his ABT crew during the pit stop. Rast was then able to control the pace at the front and bring the victory home in commanding fashion. As a result, the German, who lives in Austria, made a big leap forward in the overall DTM standings and is now definitely one of the title contenders.
On Sunday, the big Ricardo Feller show followed: The Swiss drove three thousandths of a second faster in qualifying than Rast the day before although all Audi R8 LMS cars had to add 25 kilograms overnight after an adjustment of the “Balance of Performance” (BoP). Feller had studied videos and data of his two teammates in the evening and found crucial tenths of a second.
From pole position, however, Feller had to fight hard for his first victory in the DTM – first against Felipe Fraga in the Ferrari, which was much faster on the straights, and then against his fellow Audi driver Dev Gore. The youngster from Team ABT Sportsline prevailed in both fights and then controlled the pace at the front in a similarly commanding manner as René Rast the day before.
On Sunday, Rast had to retire shortly after the start with a puncture on the right rear – a fate that had also befallen Ricardo Feller the day before. The Swiss therefore tried to conserve his tires as much as possible at the front of the field on Sunday. After crossing the finish line, the cool Swiss even made a deal with team boss Thomas Biermaier over the radio: Feller will finally get the long-awaited ABT power upgrade for his Audi RS 6.
With a fifth place on Saturday despite a loose rear wheel, Kelvin van der Linde also scored points at Imola. On Sunday, the South African had to settle for 13th place.
The DTM continues in just 14 days with ABT Sportsline’s home race at the Norisring in Nuremberg.
Quotes after the DTM races at Imola
Thomas Biermaier (Team Principal): “Two wins, two pole positions: that was a very good weekend for our team. I’m very proud of the whole team and our three drivers. Not many people would have expected René to win a DTM race with a GT3 car so quickly – I don’t think even he himself did. That makes my respect for his performance all the greater. He really put his back into it and worked hard with his crew to secure this first victory. Hats off to Ricardo Feller, too: to take his first win on the third weekend in the DTM at the age of 22 shows what a jewel we have in our team. We’ll be happy to give his RS 6 a performance upgrade. Unfortunately, Kelvin was once again beaten below par. He’s still one of the fastest GT drivers in the world. He was much stronger at Imola than the results show.”
Kelvin van der Linde (ABT Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II #3): “Of course I was hoping for more than the ten points for Saturday’s race. The safety car on Sunday was bad for me. I couldn’t come in directly and only stopped one lap later. That cost a lot of time. But we’ve got some work ahead of us as well to be at the front again.”
Ricardo Feller (ABT Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II #7): “As a little boy, I dreamed of winning DTM races. Now I’ve done it. It feels very good – awesome! A huge thanks to the whole team – the guys did a great job. My car was fantastic all weekend. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this great team and now to get a performance upgrade for my RS 6 as well. It doesn’t get much better than this ...”
René Rast (ABT Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II #33): “The joy about the pole position and the victory on Saturday clearly outweighs the joy. That was a great day and a very special victory for me. To go home without points on Sunday after a puncture was obviously frustrating. I think we could have finished in the top five again. But that’s racing. What is clear is that we have a very fast car and hopefully we’ll be at the top of the podium more often.”