Darren’s Double.

Race Report: DTM 2019.
Round 2 (4/7/19).
Benfleet City Circuit.

Round two of the 2019 DTM championship saw our racers once again line up at the Benfleet City Circuit. Darren had dominated the opening round earlier this year, taking four wins and a second, and had a commanding lead in the standings. A repeat performance here and the title was as good as his.

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Race one got underway amid chaotic scenes, with only Steve, who’d started from the back of the grid, making it round to the far end of the flyover unscathed. While Scott, Alex, Anthony and Lee got themselves up and running, Steve was busy building a handy lead at the front. Lee and Scott lead the chase in the opening laps, but behind them Anthony was biding his time.

Pits

Steve held onto his lead before ducking into the pits for his first fuel stop on lap 15. Behind him, Lee had started to pull away from Scott, who – after a spin – had dropped behind Anthony. Lee was next to pit, followed by Scott on the same lap. Last to stop was Anthony, and he was to short-fuel, holding onto his lead when he rejoined.

Splash n’ Dash

What became clear in the second stint was that everyone would need at least one more stop before the end of the race. Steve had taken on the most fuel in his stop, and had believed a short second stop would be possible. It was, but as the laps wore on, it was looking more and more likely that a third stop might be required. The truth is that everyone was looking marginal on fuel at the end of the race, and Steve was relieved to see both Lee and Anthony follow him in for a late splash and dash. His smile was short-lived, however, as he still ran out of fuel on the penultimate lap, dropping from first to third in the process.

Race One Result: 
1st Anthony – Audi RS5 (40 laps)
2nd Lee – BMW M4 (40 laps)
3rd Steve – Mercedes C-Coupe (39 laps)
4th Scott – Mercedes C-Coupe (37 laps)
5th Alex – Audi RS5 (31 laps)
Fastest Race Lap: Lee – 13.921

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Another eventful start saw Steve once again taking an early lead, but Darren – who started just ahead of him on the grid – wasn’t going to let him pull away. Indeed, with a clear pace advantage, Darren was seemingly able to pressure the race leader AND conserve fuel. Steve, who was driving at the limit just to stay ahead, was unsurprisingly first to pit once again. As the leader ducked in, Darren – who still had half a tank of fuel – motored away with the lead. Behind him, both Anthony – who was also doing quite nicely for fuel – and Lee, dropped Steve back to fourth.

Podium

The second half of the race was a case of Anthony trying, and ultimately failing to catch Darren. Steve fought back to within striking distance of third-placed Lee, but was helped into the final podium place when Lee ran out of fuel on lap 32. Alex kept going for a further two laps after Lee’s misfortune, hence taking fourth, but he too ran out of fuel.

Race Two Result:
1st Darren – BMW M4 (40 laps)
2nd Anthony – Audi RS5 (39 laps)
3rd Steve – Mercedes C-Coupe (39 laps)
4th Alex – Audi RS5 (34 laps)
5th Lee – BMW M4 (32 laps)
Fastest Race Lap: Lee – 13.373

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The third race was once again dominated by Darren, though this time he was much quicker to take the lead, despite starting from fourth on the grid. Indeed, the front row pair of Steve and George went backwards at the start, and it wasn’t long before Anthony, starting from fifth, had also passed them and set off in pursuit of Darren. Pursue would be all that Anthony could do, however, and he was not to come close to challenging for the lead in this race.

Fuel

Behind them, Steve and George were having their own battle, with the two Mercedes runners apparently taking turns to occupy third place. Again, fuel would be the deciding factor – both drivers were forced to make late stops with less than a quarter of the race to run – but Steve slightly over-fueled his car in his stop, allowing George to take the position.

Race Three Result: 
1st Darren – BMW M4 (40 laps)
2nd Anthony – Audi RS5 (40 laps)
3rd George – Mercedes C-Coupe (38 laps)
4th Steve – Mercedes C-Coupe (38 laps)
5th Alex – Audi RS5 (35 laps)
Fastest Race Lap: Steve – 13.259

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Tentative starts for the front row pair, Alex and Scott, in race four meant both George and Anthony got the jump on them and leapt into an early lead. It wasn’t long before Darren too had muscled his way past, and had set about catching Anthony. Then, a lap later, Anthony too had dropped behind the hard-charging BMW.

Error

At the front, George was holding on to his lead, but it appeared that it would only be a matter of time before he came under pressure from the BMW and the Audi giving chase behind. In the end, it didn’t come to that – an unforced error from George saw him spin off, dropping him behind both Darren and Anthony. Once again, Anthony was unable to catch the championship leader, who was clearly in dominant form. Meanwhile, Scott came home a distant fourth as he steadily got to grips with the handling of his Mercedes. Alex again ran out of fuel in the Audi.

Race Four Result: 
1st Darren – BMW M4 (40 laps)
2nd Anthony – Audi RS5 (39 laps)
3rd George – BMW M4 (38 laps)
4th Scott – Mercedes C-Coupe (35 laps)
5th Alex – Audi RS5 (27 laps)
Fastest Race Lap: Darren – 13.474

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Race five saw Anthony convert pole into an early race lead, while behind him Lee made sure his front row start became second place. Indeed, Lee had good pace in the first dozen laps, and was pushing Anthony all the way. It wasn’t easy, either, with both George and Darren snapping at his heels in third and fourth. Scott, meanwhile was a little further back in fifth, but was keeping pace with the leaders.

Heroics

Lee’s heroics in second were to come at a price – fuel. He was in for his first stop on lap 12, long before any of the others, which saw him drop away from the fight at the front. His focus now shifted to defending fourth place from Scott, who was growing in confidence with his new Mercedes C-Coupe.

Trouble

Back at the front, race leader Anthony was about to run into trouble. Darren was bearing down on him in second place, and before long made his move for the lead. Now second, Anthony was to spin heading into the underpass complex, but – with the marshall for this section already tending to another stricken car – he had to wait to be reslotted. This allowed George through into second place, and dropped Anthony too far back to mount a late challenge before the end of the race.

Race Five Result: 
1st Darren – BMW M4 (40 laps)
2nd George – Mercedes C-Coupe (39 laps)
3rd Anthony – Audi RS5 (38 laps)
4th Lee – Mercedes C-Coupe (36 laps)
5th Scott – Mercedes C-Coupe (36 laps)
Fastest Race Lap: Darren – 13.154

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Darren had, by this stage of the round, done enough to ensure that he could not now be caught in the title race. He could therefore afford to have, by his lofty standards, a bad race. Collisions with a number of his competitors saw him drop back from his start at the front of the grid, and George assume an early lead. The pink Mercedes was to come under pressure throughout the first half of the race from the again swift Lee, before heavy fuel consumption again pegged him back.

Crash

Further back, Steve had made a terrible start to the race, crashing heavily at the end of the flyover. Dropped to the back, a series of spins meant he was in danger of being lapped only five laps into the race. Eventually gaining his composure, a series of quick laps got him back on terms with the cars ahead of him. He’d fought his way back up to third when, on the 37th lap, he ran out of fuel. Meanwhile, Darren had recovered from his earlier troubles, passing Lee for second place.

Race Six Result: 
1st George – Mercedes C-Coupe (40 laps)
2nd Darren – BMW M4 (38 laps)
3rd Lee – Mercedes C-Coupe (38 laps)
4th Steve – Mercedes C-Coupe (37 laps)
5th Scott – Mercedes C-Coupe (36 laps)
Fastest Race Lap: Darren – 13.068

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With Darren’s racing now done for the evening, the competitors in the final race all fancied their chances of taking a win. Lee made the best of another rather chaotic start. Keeping things clean amid multiple crashes on the opening lap, Lee found himself with a commanding lead early on. This lead was to steadily grow as the rest of the field started to battle each other for the lower places.

Battle

One such battle in the opening phase of the race was between Steve and George. George, preferring his pacier Mercedes to the steady handling of his BMW, got ahead after the start-line melee. Steve – his own Mercedes damaged in the previous race – had borrowed Anthony’s Audi for this race, and was enjoying it’s pace and smooth handling. By the first pit stops, Steve had pulled away from George, who was now under pressure from Scott.

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With Lee long gone at the front, the action was now coming from Steve and Scott. Scott had been closing on Steve lap after lap, and when Steve made a late stop on lap 31, Scott was promoted to second. A short stop and a handful of quick laps saw Steve catch and pass the rookie, retaking the lead, but he’d misjudged the fuel required to get him home. Another forced pit stop with two laps to go meant second place went to Scott and Steve had to settle for third.

Race Seven Result: 
1st Lee – Mercedes C-Coupe (40 laps)
2nd Scott – Mercedes C-Coupe (40 laps)
3rd Steve – Audi RS5 (40 laps)
4th George – Mercedes C-Coupe (38 laps)
5th Alex – Audi RS5 (29 laps)
Fastest Race Lap: Lee – 12.710

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Round Two Result: 
1st Darren – 118
2nd Anthony – 94
3rd George – 85
4th Lee – 80
5th Steve – 69
6th Scott – 62
7th Alex – 52

So, with a round to spare, we have our first champion of 2019. Darren has been largely untouchable in the DTM class this year, and has thoroughly deserved the title – a title he last won in 2015. Congratulations, Darren, on the double!

Championship Positions:

Round 1: Round 2: Round 3: Total
1
Darren

118

118

101

236
2
Lee

101

80

101

202
3
Anthony

94

94

104

198
4
George

75

85

98

183
5
Steve

64

69

63

133
6
Scott

56

62

69

131
7
Cliff

52

XX

54

106
8
Alex

XX

52

XX

52
9
Norman

XX

XX

50

50

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