Zolder Points Just Out of GruppeM Racing's Reach
- GruppeM Racing 12th in second DTM race at Zolder
- Improved performance after retirement on Saturday
- Team pushing to return to points at the Nürburgring
Zolder, Belgium – Less than three and a half seconds separated Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing from a points score in round six of the DTM season at Zolder.
Daniel Juncadella took 12th in Sunday’s close-fought 55-minute race, finishing six-tenths behind the next car and a short distance away from the points-paying top 10.
After a first-lap collision forced its early retirement from Saturday's encounter, the GruppeM Racing crew worked hard to fix and prepare the #8 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the second qualifying session of the weekend on Sunday morning.
Juncadella was on fine form in that 20-minute session, posting the fifth-fastest lap time of 1m 27.452. However, a penalty carried over from the previous race meant that he would start Sunday afternoon's main event from 15th on the 19-car grid.
The Spaniard skilfully avoided a spinning car at the first corner to pick up one position early on, before a safety car period intervened for a handful of laps.
Juncadella overtook an Audi for 13th shortly after the restart at the end of lap five, while GruppeM Racing’s strategists made the call to bring its driver into the pits for an early mandatory service after lap six.
A quick four-corner tyre change from the mechanics and some strong early-stint lap times in clean air resulted in Juncadella claiming another net position, putting the team within sight of the top 10.
Juncadella then came under pressure from a charging Lamborghini, which moved ahead at the Earste left-hander on lap 16.
Undeterred by losing a place, the Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing driver kept pushing to get within range of the battling group of cars up the road.
Juncadella, now running 13th, sat less than a second behind the next car in line for several laps, but found a passing opportunity hard to come by around the tight 4.010 km Zolder lap.
GruppeM Racing returned to 12th place when one of the late-pitting cars made its stop, establishing the #8 Mercedes-AMG GT3's finishing position.
Despite missing out on points, the team could be satisfied with its car’s speed in qualifying and the solid job completed by Juncadella and the pit crew during the race.
With its first visit to Zolder in the books, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing now turns its attention to the next DTM meeting at the Nürburgring on August 21-22.
Daniel Juncadella, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing driver: "My hand was a bit bruised after yesterday’s incident, but I didn’t have any problems driving. Qualifying was OK, but we were unlucky with a red flag so it was only good enough for P5. The 10-place grid penalty made everything a bit harder. The pit stop was good but after that our pace was not as strong, to be honest. We just need to analyse it because we were missing quite a lot compared to our rivals. So we’ve got to work and try to sort it for the Nürburgring."
Stephanie Flohr, GruppeM Racing team manager: “First of all, we are very happy that Dani’s hand is fine again after yesterday’s first-lap incident. Our crew did a very good job after the crash and Dani was able to have a good qualifying. Unfortunately, the Q2 session was stopped by a red flag and not resumed. Therefore, we didn’t have any more time to improve our lap. We qualified fifth, but due to the penalty we got a drop of 10 grid positions. We started the second race from P15 and Dani made a good start without any big contact, and the restart after the safety car was also good. We did the pit stop at the beginning and at short notice, thus Dani had a long stint on the second set of tyres. He managed that very well until the end. We gained three positions and finished P12. We will now prep our Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the Nürburgring and are looking forward to that race.”