In excellent outside conditions, the DTM drivers took on first free practice at the Nürburgring. Still, the times were slower than those of the year before when Mattias Ekström (1m23.679s) topped the time sheets after the first session of the Eifel weekend in 2015. This year, a time of 1m23.838s was enough to be fastest, as Christian Viertoris managed in bright sunshine on Friday afternoon. Only four drivers managed to post a sub 1m24s lap time at the 3.629 kilometres long sprint lay-out of the Grand Prix circuit. Three of them where behind the wheel of a Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM, one of them drove a BMW M4 DTM. 

Robert Wickens already posted his fastest lap time nine minutes into the session. The second-placed from the drivers’ standings ended up with a time of 1m23.916s and topped the ranking for a long time. With two minutes remaining, however, Vietoris mounted a challenge and was the only one to beat the Canadian’s time. One minute after Vietoris, points’ leader Marco Wittmann also improved significantly. With 1m23.922s, he ended up third in the final classification. “A nice start of the race weekend. However, things don’t get really serious before tomorrow. Still, starting like this is always a good feeling,” Wittmann said.

Felix Rosenqvist was the fourth driver to post a lap time of under 1m24s. He also did it in the closing stages of the session, setting his fastest time of 1m23.992s with four minutes remaining. The Swede continues to drive on probation. Having stepped in for Formula 1-bound Esteban Ocon at Moscow for the first time and having scored points there right away, it will only be decided after the Nürburgring meeting whether he will also be racing during the next DTM events.

Behind Rosenqvist, Edoardo Mortara (1m24.044s) ended up as the best-placed Audi driver in fifth position. “Our opponents are strong, as was to be expected. We still have a lot of work to do, but generally, I am very optimistic,” Mortara commented.

Wickens, Wittmann, Mortara – second, first and fourth in the drivers’ standings – are among the top five in first free practice. The final third of the 2016 season has started and the main title favourites are closely matched. The fifth-placed driver in the championship, Paul Di Resta (1m24.141s) is not far away either: he was classified seventh in practice. And even though the third-placed driver in the standings, Jamie Green (1m24.637s) was still a little bit further down with 17th place on Friday, a thrilling race weekend in the Eifel is on the cards. Fans can be curious to find out how the favourites will do in the two races on Saturday (from 14.55 hrs) and Sunday (from 15.10 hrs).