Rene Rast brilliantly won the opening DTM Series race of the weekend at the Nurburgring despite having to sustain pressure from Bruno Spengler in the closing laps of the race, with the defending champion just doing enough to claim his second win of the season.
Gary Paffett secured the final podium place to reclaim the lead of the championship after seeing off a late-race challenger from Timo Glock in the Team BMW RMR machine.
Rast got a perfect start from pole position, and was closely followed by Paffett and Spengler; with the top three pulling away from the chasing pack further behind. Down at the back of the grid meanwhile, there was contact between the penalized Robin Frijns and the Silberpfeil Energy Mercedes-AMG Motorsport driver of Edoardo Mortara.
It wasn’t long before there was mayhem in the mid-pack, with Glock and Daniel Juncadella knocking into each other. Ultimately, it resulted in the Spaniard losing a huge heap of time and positions, with Glock forcing him off the road down at turn five which opened up the road for Augusto Farfus and Joel Eriksson just behind.
Then the battle for fourth place was at the heart of the action, headed by Mercedes driver Lucas Auer. But it was the battle between Phillip Eng and Paul Di Resta just behind that sparked controversy, with the championship leader being spun around following contact with the BMW driver. Eng was consequently awarded with a drive-through penalty, ruining both their races in the process.
Just before the pit-stop phase, Spengler was able to get the measure of Paffett with a textbook move down into the first corner from the Canadian and was able to maintain his advantage after the pit-stops after fending off the British driver on his out-lap. After clearing Paffett, Spengler was able to start catching Rast for the race lead.
After the pit-stops, battling further down the field got fiesty between the two Audi drivers, with Jamie Green running Frijns out of road through the mid-sector of the lap and consequently saw the two men maintain their positions. This was only for the Mercedes of Pascal Wehrelin and the sister Audi of Nico Müller to relegate them down the order in quick succession.
The other Audi of Loïc Duval meanwhile went long in the first stint to give him fresher tyres in the second half of the race, which he used to fight back into the points-paying positions, with a strong eighth-place finish. Another man on the charge was Mike Rockenfeller, who similarly used his fresh rubber to advance his track position, elevating himself to sixth by the chequered flag. The other points finishers were Wehrlein in seventh, Farfus in ninth and Müller rounding off the top ten finishers in the opening race of the weekend.
Glock was also a man charging right to the end, passing Marco Wittmann for fourth and looked set for a possible podium finish until he shortcut the chicane on the penultimate lap, which meant Paffett was able to hold onto third place.
Meanwhile, Spengler was continuing to catch Rast for the lead, but the German just did enough to take another DTM Series win here at the Nurburgring.
“Today, I am really happy,” said Rast after the race. “I never achieved the maximum score so far. Things can continue like this. But doing even better tomorrow will be difficult.
““Bruno was extremely fast. Had the race been just a few laps longer, it would have become really close for me.”