Green win marred by Audi protest
1 January 1901
Jamie Green has scored his first DTM victory in immensely controversial surroundings during the penultimate round at Barcelona after Audi withdrew its remaining cars with ten laps of the race remaining.
Going a long way to overshadowing the victory for the Brit – his first in 30 attempts -, Audi appeared to be unhappy at the way their title protagonists Mattias Ekstrom and Martin Tomczyk were both separately eliminated from the race. When Timo Scheider was later pushed off, Audi immediately called their remaining six runners into the pit lane to withdraw.
A race of controversy all round that included several on-track incidents as well as a number of drive-through penalties, the final order was a pale reflection of what had been expected. However, after a bruising encounter over the course of the 58 lap race, Mercedes were left to claim the top six positions, with Audi keeping seventh and eighth, despite being ten laps adrift, thanks to the unusually high attrition rate.
As things stand though, Ekstrom still leads the standings heading to the Hockenheimring. However, Spengler is now second, just two points adrift, while Tomczyk is down to third still four points off his team-mate, creating a three-way fight for the title in the tenth and final round.
With Tomczyk starting on pole position and five Mercedes starting just behind him, you could forgive the Audi driver to for becoming overwhelmed at the getaway. Nonetheless, the German kept his cool and led into the first corner, Mika Hakkinen close behind and Bruno Spengler, Bernd Schneider and Green ensuring the status quo in third, fourth and fifth.
Further back, the cracks between Audi and Mercedes' increasingly uneasy relationship in the DTM began to appear when Tom Kristensen and Gary Paffett came together in the middle of the field. Although both continued, Kristensen was sent to the back of the field, while Paffett was called in for a drive-through penalty, albeit for jumping the start.
Settling into a typical procession over the course of the early stages, the race came alive on lap seven when Hakkinen made a move on Tomczyk heading into the first turn under braking and the two came together. The impact was enough to send both drivers off the circuit, Tomczyk falling down to 11th place and Hakkinen limping back to the pit lane to retire from the race.
Their elimination allowed Spengler into the lead, with Schneider and Green closely following, while Alex Margaritis, Timo Scheider, Paul di Resta, Lucas Luhr and Mathias Lauda filled out the top eight after Mike Rockenfeller and Ekstrom came in early for their first pit stop.
Ekstrom's race was over by lap 13 though when he was involved in a collision with Daniel La Rosa, the duo going side by side into the first turn but coming together. While La Rosa remained in the gravel, Ekstrom limped back to the pit lane to retire.
With the first round of pit-stops in full swing, Mercedes saw their challenge dented when Schneider pulled off to retire on lap 15, although it did leave Spengler with a healthy effective lead. At that point the race was being led by Lucas Luhr, the German embarking on a long first stint to lead a total of 27 laps and withstanding some intense pressure from Spengler.
However, Spengler's victory hopes were hit hard on lap 31 when he was handed a drive-through penalty for recording a fastest sector time whilst it was under yellow flags. The penalty was later also handed to Scheider, Margaritis, Christian Abt and Paffett, the latter being landed with his second penalty of the race.
That left Luhr with time to breathe before he made his pit stop on lap 35, with Green, now having completed his two stops, running closely behind, ahead of di Resta, Rockenfeller, Spengler and Alex Premat, the Frenchman having started at the back of the grid for a technical infringement but fighting his way back well.
Tomczyk however was already into retirement, the German pulling into the pit lane with a problem having battled his way up onto the fringes of the points again.
His retirement kickstarted a confusing few laps for the as Audi instructed its drivers to pull into the pit lane and withdraw from the race. In addition to Ekstrom and Tomczyk's retirements, this was seemingly also in protest at Scheider being taken off the track by Mathias Lauda on lap 37 and then Rockenfeller having third place aggressively wrestled off him by a charging Spengler.
With driving standards having been under scrutiny in recent races, the actions of the race is likely to prompt fierce comments to be passed between the two manufacturers before the final round of the season.
Uninvolved in the controversy behind, victory went otherwise deservingly to Green, the Brit always at the front and benefiting more from his team-mate's problems than those of Audi to come away with a long-awaited first win in what has been a difficult season for the former Formula 3 Euroseries Champion.
Spengler eventually finished second after being allowed through by di Resta, the young Scot holding on for his fourth podium of the year.
With only six Mercedes still running, Margaritis recorded his best ever DTM result in fourth, ahead of Paffett and Lauda in fifth and sixth.
Ironically, despite pulling out, both Rockenfeller and Luhr had completed enough of the race distance to still be classified and will therefore earn two and one point for seventh and eighth, the latter driver scoring his maiden DTM point in the process.
First win or not, it is what happened in the pit lane that is set to grab the headlines and it remains to be seen what effect it will have on the championship in the coming days. The fallout beckons...