A lively Saturday DTM race at Hockenheim ended with Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing banking eight championship points courtesy of a sixth-place finish for Daniel Juncadella.
A terrific second-row qualifying performance in the morning set the scene for a resilient run at the sharp end of the field in the afternoon’s 55-minute plus three laps contest.
Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing approached Saturday full of enthusiasm after Juncadella set the second-fastest lap time during Free Practice on Friday.
The driver of the #8 Mercedes-AMG GT3 extended his form into qualifying, where he turned in a time of 1m 37.288 that put him fourth on the grid for the race.
Juncadella made an excellent start, charging around the outside of his fellow second-row starter at Turn 1 to briefly take third. The order then chopped and changed through the next few corners and Juncadella was running fifth when the safety car came out after an incident at the Turn 6 hairpin.
The field returned to racing at the end of lap four with a two-by-two restart, from which Juncadella maintained fifth position up to mandatory pit stops.
The Spanish driver briefly took the race lead when his rivals ahead pitted, while GruppeM Racing mobilised its pit crew for a service at the end of lap eight.
A competitive 7.5-second tyre change contributed to a total pit time of 29.1 seconds, which enabled Juncadella to leapfrog a fellow Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver for fourth.
Juncadella continued in fourth and had his eyes set on the podium places. However, some of the cars that pitted later were starting to charge through the field on fresher tires and were soon knocking on the door of the more lucrative points positions.
Despite three cars getting past the #8 Mercedes-AMG on separate occasions, Juncadella continued to lay down a strong pace whilst also carefully managing his tyres.
One of those lost positions came back to GruppeM after the chequered flag due to a time penalty for the sixth-placed car on the road, promoting Juncadella to sixth in the classification.
The result signalled Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing’s first DTM points score since its maiden series podium at the Nürburgring in August.
The second Hockenheim qualifying session starts at 10:20 a.m. tomorrow, while the 14th race of the DTM season is due to get underway at 1:33 p.m. (both times CEST).
Daniel Juncadella, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing driver: “It was a tough race, I have to say. Qualifying went pretty well and P4 was a good result. I had a really good start and nearly jumped up to P2, but was a bit compromised on the first lap fighting for the position. I lost out and dropped back to P5. Then we had a pretty good pit stop to jump up to P4, but we struggled a bit with the tyres, so we lost out to another two rivals towards the end for P6. So there is some work to do tomorrow regarding setup and trying to find what didn’t go so well today. But we will give it another go tomorrow!”
Stephanie Flohr, GruppeM Racing team manager: “Qualifying today was pretty good; Dani finished P4 with only 0.6 seconds to the pole-sitter. We started from the second row in the first race here at Hockenheim and Dani made a good start. We lost one position on the first lap but after our pit stop we were again running in P4. The tyre pressures went higher than expected in the second part of the race and that was the reason for not being able to keep the position. We finished P6 and we are more than optimistic for tomorrow. The car looks good after this race. We will do some adjustments and hopefully we can start tomorrow’s qualifying like today and run again in the points or even get on the podium. Let’s see…”