René Rast delivered a commanding drive from lights to flag to win the first DTM race of the weekend at the famous Imola circuit.
Rast continued his rich run of form to take a twenty-first career pole in DTM, making him the most successful Audi Driver in this discipline of the series. Nico Müller started second on the grid, with Thomas Preining third taking his first championship point in the process.
The race began slowly, with the front three holding position. Kelvin Van der Linde however made a great start, making up two places from his sixth-place grid start.
Rast and Preining opted for early pitstops on lap six, with Müller coming into the pitlane a lap later.
With the leaders in the pits, Van der Linde took the lead in the race. When the South African eventually did pit, he looked to overcut Thomas Preining in third. However, his cold tyres left him open to attack. Preining grabbed the opportunity and regained third with two wheels on the grass in a daring move.
But, a late charge from Mirko Bortolotti stole the show. Bortolotti started from 16th after receiving a ten-place grid penalty for using a wrongly marked set of tyres in second practice.
A long first stint gave the Italian a tyre advantage late in the race. He began to set the timing sheets a light with fastest laps, overtaking Wittmann, Schmid, Van der Linde and Preining to take third place at the checkered flag.
Bortolotti said post-race: “Absolutely unbelievable, we just opted to go as long as possible, with new tires at the end. Huge thanks to everyone on the team for that strategy.”
The Italian goes into the second half of the Imola weekend with the championship lead within his grasp, only three points behind leader Sheldon Van der Linde.