A formidable performance from Daniel Juncadella and Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing ended with a six-point score for both partties in the first leg of the DTM season finale at the Norisring.
Juncadella finished seventh to claim his third consecutive points finish and continue GruppeM Racing’s recent spell of good form. The result means that the Hong Kong-based outfit has moved up one place to sixth in the teams’ championship standings.
Juncadella started Saturday’s 55-minute race from seventh on the grid and passed the chequered flag in the same position, however his route wasn’t as straightforward as the result made it seem.
A tangle at the first corner resulted in the #8 Mercedes-AMG GT3’s right-rear bodywork rubbing on the corresponding tyre, which Juncadella expertly managed until the pit window opened on lap five.
After a succinct check and a tyre change from the GruppeM mechanics, the Spanish ace was sent back out on his way for a mammoth second stint of more than 60 laps.
Juncadella’s task for the remaining time was to put his head down and push to emerge in the points once the other drivers came in for their mandatory stops.
It took a while for the pit cycle to shake out, but with 20 minutes to go Juncadella was running one place outside the top ten with four drivers in front still yet to pit.
Despite having some of the oldest tyres in the field, Juncadella managed to keep the Audi behind him at bay and was also pressuring the Mercedes-AMG just ahead.
Once the final four drivers had pitted, Juncadella slotted into to his final position of seventh. Only seven seconds separated him from the third step of the podium, highlighting his excellent pace after the pit stop.
Buoyed by a strong showing in Saturday’s encounter, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing is aiming to continue its late-season form in race two on Sunday.
The final round of the DTM season is due to start at 1:33 p.m. The grid will be decided by a 20-minute qualifying session beginning at 10 a.m. (times CEST).
Daniel Juncadella, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing driver: “I had to pit early because the car was rubbing on the tyre, but we also planned to pit early today. We decided to save some tyres for tomorrow, which was good. I was a bit limited because I got hit at the start, so with that part of the car rubbing the tyre, we lost four seconds on the pit stop. But the pace was good and we recovered some positions to finish P7, so we scored some points which is always nice. Now we just have to get the car ready tomorrow, for the final push!”
Stephanie Flohr, GruppeM Racing team manager: “We are happy with our result today, starting and finishing in the same position. Dani had a decent grid position after qualifying, but it’s always a lottery going into the first corner at the Norisring, no matter where you start. Some contact resulted in the bodywork rubbing on the right-rear tyre, but Dani managed it so that we could avoid a costly early pit stop. After making our tyre change and checking the car, Dani put in a brilliant drive to bring our Mercedes-AMG GT3 home in the points once again.”
Source. Gruppe M Racing/Photo. DTM