It was the first time the DTM series had visited Assen in the Netherlands meaning rookie Habsburg had less disadvantage than usual against the championship stalwarts, and this showed in practice when he set the 12th fastest lap in the opening session.
In qualifying, however, the Aston Martin Vantage DTM car couldn’t match the pace of its rivals and all four R-Motorsport entries sat at the bottom of the table in Q1. Needing a miracle, Habsburg and his team-mates rejoiced at the rainfall that fell throughout race one and acted as a leveller to the competitors with more power in the dry.
Despite the torrid conditions, Habsburg drove well, climbing through the pack from P17. With one lap to go, the young Austrian was in P12 and the lead Aston Martin, before team-mate Jake Dennis got past in the final seconds.
“The rain was so heavy but I actually really enjoy the wet as it really levels the cars out a bit. It becomes more about driver talent.”commented the Greenstorm -sponsored racing driver. “It was good fun battling with and passing Jake (Dennis) but, in the end, he was quicker than me, and got back past. It’s a shame because it would have been nice to be the front-finishing Aston Martin but I’m happy to take P2 to Jake and P13 overall.”
The following morning, the sun was shining and the 18 DTM cars headed out for qualifying two. With the four Aston Martins struggling for pace again, a strong race strategy and clean racing would be essential the second round of the weekend.
Opting for a one-stop strategy, Habsburg drove conservatively in the first stint before taking new rubber and pushing hard to the end to cross the line in twelfth.
“In hindsight, I maybe drove too conservatively in the first stint of race two but I’m still learning the car and the tyre,” he continued. “It’s no secret that we’re struggling with pace but it’s the first year and there’s no point in complaining. We just have to work hard to keep developing and I know our time will come.”
Habsburg changes machinery for his next outing with R-Motorsport, as the team heads to the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium next weekend. After a successful test earlier this month, Habsburg and his team-mates Hugo de Sadeleer, Aaro Vainio and Ricky Collard are aiming to take the silver cup class honours in the Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
“Although both race cars are based on the Aston Martin Vantage, they are very different to drive,” he concluded. “While the DTM car is a thoroughbred racing car built for short sprint races, the GT3 has some electrical assistance, such as ABS and traction control, has less aero, and is set-up for long-distances. This, along with the nature of 24-hour racing, requires a very different driving style.“
“I have good memories of the 24 Hours of Spa race weekend as I won the FIA F3 European Championship race there. Let’s hope I get to stand on the podium again this weekend.”