Sachsenring – Germany, 10th September 2023
The DTM return to the Sachsenring for the first time in 21 years brought no luck, especially for Jack Aitken. After strong performances in qualifying, Jack Aitken had to retire from both races early due to contact with opponents through none of his own fault. A bitter setback for the DTM-winner from the Lausitzring. Thierry Vermeulen secured solid points with positions ten and five.
Race 1 I Saturday, 09th September 2023:
In the first qualifying session on Saturday morning, Jack Aitken could hardly drive a free lap and thus placed his #14 Ferrari only in 9th position. His team-mate Thierry Vermeulen had a free run and achieved his best starting position in the DTM to date with 6th place. Due to later penalties, the two Emil Frey Racing Ferraris slipped further up the order into the positions 5 (#69) and 6 (#14).
Jack Aitken got off to a good start and at the same time made-up two positions in the tight first corners. After an accident on lap 7, the Safety-Car came out on track for a short time. Unfortunately, the #14 Ferrari of Jack Aitken suffered damage in a fight for positions both at the front and at the rear of the car, in which the radiator was damaged in the front area. This caused water to leak-out and the engine threatened to overheat – so the team had to retire the car in the pits as early as lap 10.
Thierry Vermeulen got the worse line at the start and lost positions. For many laps he fought with the #1 BMW of Sheldon van der Linde, as a result of which he dropped back to eighth place. When the obligatory pitstop was due on lap 15, the young Dutchman suffered a minor mishap when he turned in too early, passed two teams and only then came to a halt at the Emil Frey Racing garage. As a result of this mistake, the number 69 received what is known as a “penalty lap” (where a car drives off the track at 50 km/h on a section in Turn 1 at slow speed). This cost Thierry Vermeulen two places. Nevertheless, he fought his way back lap after lap and managed a 10th place in the end and thus a reconciliatory result after the chaotic race.
Race 2 I Sunday, 10th September 2023:
Sunday was the second chance for damage limitation and the drivers showed an impressive performance already in qualifying. Jack Aitken placed his number 14 Ferrari in second place – and then drove the absolute best second sector, although he had a trip into the gravel and thus dirty tyres – a brilliant performance. Thierry Vermeulen made another leap forward compared to Saturday’s qualifying and secured 4th position. Thierry Vermeulen was demoted five places due to three cautions he received in the last races. The number 69 thus started the race from 9th on the grid.
Jack Aitken and Thierry Vermeulen both showed a good start. Jack Aitken, however, lost a place in the Omega curve. In the opening phase, a three-car accident occurred in Turn 3 and a Mercedes got stuck in the gravel. After a short Safety-Car period, the race was red-flagged.
After the re-start, Jack Aitken maintained third place and Thierry Vermeulen lost a position to the #36 Mercedes. For many laps, the Englishman in the #14 Ferrari lurked behind the #4 Mercedes, but could not get close enough to the Mercedes in front of him. On the fifth lap, both drivers set the absolute best times in Sector 2 (Jack Aitken) and Sector 3 (Thierry Vermeulen).
The Englishman pitted on lap 13 and came back in third position but was unable to get past the #4 Mercedes due to cold tyres. On lap 17, a three-way battle occurred between the #14 Ferrari as well as the #4 Mercedes and the #7 Audi, where the latter made contact with the Emil Frey Racing Ferrari in a brutal overtaking move, causing a puncture at the right rear – another early retirement for Jack Aitken through no fault of his own.
Thierry Vermeulen pitted on lap 18 and ran in 6th position until the chequered flag, securing a good point result. Thierry Vermeulen benefited from a 5-second penalty imposed on the #7 (contact with Jack Aitken) after the race and re-positioned himself in 5th place.
Team Quotes Emil Frey Racing
Jürg Flach, Technical Director: “I have a very mixed view of the weekend at the Sachsenring. We had a good performance, but we didn´t score enough points. Once again, apart from Thierry’s 5th place on Sunday, we weren´t lucky in our fight for positions. Twice we suffered damage to the number 14 car of Jack Aitken as a result of bumping, which forced us to retire. We did many things right, but in the end I’m disappointed overall.”
Lorenz Frey-Hilti, Team Principal: “Saturday was not an easy day for us. The start here at the Sachsenring is always difficult because it is very tight in the first sector. Thierry had several fights and did very well. Unfortunately, he made a mistake on the approach to the pitstop, turned in too early and visited two other teams before coming to us. As a result, our pitstop strategy didn’t work out, because we got a so-called “penalty lap” and instead of a good 7th place we saved 10th place in the end. Both drivers showed a good race on Sunday, and it’s a pity that we couldn’t get more out of the good pace we had in the race. Jack unfortunately attracted bad luck this weekend. Thierry showed how well our car was running. He fought hard and finished in a very good 5th.”
Driver Quote Ferrari 296 GT3 #14
Jack Aitken (Great Britain): “It was just a very difficult weekend for us. It’s painful when you have a lot of potential for podiums, but you don’t achieve anything. All you can do is close the door on this race and look forward to the next one. Yesterday we had a good start, but then on the first lap I had a little contact at the front and rear and we were unlucky to hit a spot on the car where the radiator is exposed and from that moment, we lost water. The engine temperature got high, and we had to stop the car. It was very unfortunate, but the car is fast.”
Driver Quote Ferrari 296 GT3 #69
Thierry Vermeulen (Netherlands): “Saturday was a difficult day, but I was very happy with my performance in qualifying. I think, my car was very strong. Due to some penalties, I was able to start the race from 5th position. We knew the race would be much tougher as it is a track with high tyre wear. There is a lot to learn from my side as well, I made silly mistakes that shouldn’t happen. I think we had a good car this weekend, but there could have been more, even though we showed a good race on Sunday.”