Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline‘s Nico Müller took full advantage of a retirement for DTM Series championship leader René Rast with victory in the first race at the Lausitzring.
Rast, who started from pole for the sixth time in 2019, was forced to dramatically slow with a loss of hydraulic power early on in the 55-minute plus one lap race while leading from Müller.
Audi Sport enjoyed a clean sweep of the podium for the second time in as many races, with Robin Frijns finishing 2.4 seconds adrift of Müller and Mike Rockenfeller completing the top three ahead of BMW Team RMG‘s Marco Wittmann.
The Swiss driver’s victory scythes his points deficit to Rast to 14 points with five races to go, having started the afternoon 39 points behind the 2017 champion.
Müller also reaped the benefits of a poor start for fellow Audi driver Jamie Green, who lined up in second place, moving ahead of the Brit and tucking in behind Rast.
Rast could not extend his lead past one second in the opening stages of the race at a warm Lausitzring, before he suddenly slowed heading into Turn 3.
Müller almost ran into the back of the German as he was caught by surprise by the abrupt change in pace, as Wittmann sniffed around for an opening in middle of the chaos.
Rast initially pulled off of the infield section with a number of alarms going off inside the cockpit of his Team Rosberg-run Audi, before rejoining the race at seemingly full speed.
Two laps later, the Brands Hatch Race 2 winner was instructed to peel into the garage as the fault reemerged, continuing his miserable Lausitzring race form.
Müller survived initial pressure from Wittmann and started to form a gap before the frontrunners’ pitstops, a phase triggered by Frijns and the BMW on laps 12 and 13 – Wittmann came in for new tyres as he tried to escape the close attentions of Green.
Race leader Müller waited one more lap to make his sole stop on lap 14 and suffered a slightly slower stop compared to his rivals, but managed to get his tyres up to temperature in time to fend off the baying Frijns and Wittmann.
Green fully fell out of contention for a podium with his stop from the lead on lap 16, coming in at the same time as Mike Rockenfeller.
The Brit was placed under investigation for an unsafe release as BMW Team RMG’s Timo Glock also pulled into his box, and was duly handed a drive-through penalty that dropped him to the base of the top 10.
His frustration was compounded by Rockenfeller’s ability to close on Frijns and Wittmann in the final few laps on fresher tyres.
The Audi found it difficult to pass a resolute Wittmann, even making contact with the BMW in an attempted overtaking move with 10 minutes of the race remaining, but eventually muscled his way through on the outside of Turn 1 to move onto the podium.
Frijns proved to be just out of reach for Rockenfeller, with Müller untouchable for all – his victory marked a career first podium at the Lausitzring.
Wittmann had to be content with fourth, ahead of the next best BMW of Philipp Eng and the early-stopping Audi Sport Team Phoenix car of Loïc Duval.
Pietro Fittipaldi took the fifth points finish of his DTM career with seventh, with Joel Eriksson, Bruno Spengler and Green completing the top 10.
Jake Dennis finished as the highest R-Motorsport/Aston Martin driver in eleventh, narrowly in front of Daniel Juncadella.
Glock joined Rast in the list of race retirements, suffering a terminal transmission problem after his pitstop.
|11||76||Jake Dennis||Aston Martin||+34.0|
|12||23||Daniel Juncadella||Aston Martin||+34.5|
|13||3||Paul Di Resta||Aston Martin||+45.3|
|15||62||Ferdinand Habsburg||Aston Martin||+51.9|
|16||31||Sheldon van der Linde||BMW||+1:01.6|