Maro Engel took a surprising maiden DTM victory in the second Moscow race, taking advantage of a safety car to vault himself to the front and hold off a charging Mattias Ekström for victory.
Engel started from the back row of the grid, and elected to serve his mandatory pit-stop on the first lap of the race, a strategy mirrored by Marco Wittmann, Loic Duval and Tom Blomqvist, the latter sharing the back row with Engel after being stripped of his pole position only an hour before the race began.
Wittmann was initially the leader of the brave quartet, and their bold strategy choice was rewarded by the deployment of a safety car on Lap 5, when Maxime Martin flew off into the tyre barriers on the outside of Turn 5. Contact with Duval damaged the radiator of the Belgian’s BMW, sending temperatures sky-high and causing brake failure, his front wheels catching fire after his collision with the tyres.
This put Wittmann in a position to potentially inherit the lead after the first pit-stop cycle, with Engel now directly behind having leapfrogged both Duval and Blomqvist. Audi however had left Nico Müller on track without taking a mandatory stop, which caused the chasing pack to concertina and allow Engel the opportunity to pass Wittmann for second at the opening turn.
Müller stayed out until only three laps were left, a deliberate ploy by Audi to allow Ekström to catch the early-stopping quartet while the Swiss driver held them up.
Ekström was quickly released by Audi stablemate Duval, and two laps later made quick work of Blomqvist, but found Wittmann much harder to pass. It took until the penultimate lap for the Swede to find a way past, using a cutback at the final turn to draw alongside the reigning champion and take second.
The gap between Engel and Ekström vanished in the space of a lap, but fortunately for the German the last lap had arrived, crossing the line with the Audi almost on his rear bumper.
The relative tyre wear between the early stoppers who had inherited track positions and those on a conventional strategy caused havoc with the race order in the closing laps.
Bruno Spengler had started from pole position, sharing the front row with Ekström. He lost the lead to the Audi driver on the twelfth lap, Ekström using DRS and a dose of bravery to squeeze between the Canadian and the pitwall to make the move happen into Turn 1. He too caught the leading pack towards the end of the race, and took advantage of a lunge by Jamie Green on Wittmann at Turn 15 to pass the latter for the final podium place on the penultimate lap.
René Rast – the championship leader going into the race – found himself down in tenth after the mandatory stops, having suffered a slow turnaround in pit-lane. He was able to capitalise on Green’s wayward late move, Wittmann being pushed far wide of the turn giving him an easy way past, before Audi stablemate Green allowed him through for fourth place on the final lap.
Behind Green and Wittmann was Mike Rockenfeller, who had taken advantage of Blomqvist’s rapidly wearing tyres to take seventh place away from the Brit in the closing laps.
Lucas Auer was only ninth, but stamped his authority on the race more than any other driver with a series of bold and forceful moves. As the first set of stops unfolded, Rast found himself with both Augusto Farfus and Auer on his tail heading towards the final turn. Farfus ducked to the outside, and Rast’s reflexive defence gave Auer the finest of margins to squeeze his Mercedes down the inside of both drivers to take 12th. It was not an entirely clean move, the Austrian clipping Rast, which in turn sent Rast into the side of Farfus.
Rast would get his revenge late in the race, keeping his foot in when Auer pushed him so close to the edge of the track that the former was nearly brushing the pitwall, retaking 8th place at the time on his journey back up the leaderboard.
Having helped his Audi team-mate Ekström on his way to second, Duval’s race would not have a happy ending of its own. Whilst fighting Paul di Resta for position, the duo collided exiting turn two, sending Duval out of the points positions and forcing the Mercedes driver to retire from the race entirely.
The result has given Ekström the championship lead by a single point over Audi cohort Rast, while Auer is the only driver able to break the Audi deadlock of the Top 5 championship positions, ahead of Green and Rockenfeller. Having gone into the race only 4 points behind Rast, Auer is now 15 behind new leader Ekström, the championship having passed its halfway mark after the first Moscow race on Saturday.
|1||#63||Maro Engel||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport SILBERPFEIL Energy||56:41.087|
|2||#5||Mattias Ekström||Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline||+0.376|
|3||#7||Bruno Spengler||BMW Team RBM||+3.981|
|4||#33||René Rast||Audi Sport Team Rosberg||+4.702|
|5||#53||Jamie Green||Audi Sport Team Rosberg||+5.410|
|6||#11||Marco Wittmann||BMW Team RMG||+7.192|
|7||#99||Mike Rockenfeller||Audi Sport Team Phoenix||+7.416|
|8||#31||Tom Blomqvist||BMW Team RBM||+8.391|
|9||#22||Lucas Auer||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport BWT||+8.564|
|10||#6||Robert Wickens||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Mercedes Me||+8.982|
|11||#2||Gary Paffett||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Mercedes Me||+9.267|
|12||#48||Edoardo Mortara||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport BWT||+9.942|
|13||#15||Augusto Farfus||BMW Team RMG||+10.919|
|14||#16||Timo Glock||BMW Team RMG||+12.505|
|15||#77||Loïc Duval||Audi Sport Team Phoenix||+19.913|
|16||#51||Nico Müller||Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline||+37.728|
|Ret||#3||Paul di Resta||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport SILBERPFEIL Energy||DNF|
|Ret||#36||Maxime Martin||BMW Team RBM||DNF|