Rene Rast made the most of his fast Audi RS5 and the mild conditions at Hockenheim to take his 17th DTM race win.
BMW’s Marco took 2nd place in his M4, while Mike Rockenfeller continued his strong second half of the season to secure the final podium spot for Audi.
From pole position, Rast built a lead of 1.6s in the opening three laps from the quick starting Rockenfeller, before the latter drew back toward Rast and leading a brief challenge to the recently crowned champion.
Rockenfeller’s charge was short-lived and once in his comfort zone, Rast gapped the former champion, building to 2.3s while Rockenfeller fought against a feisty Wittmann. Ultimately it proved fruitless, as the BMW racer forced his way past Rockenfeller into 2nd place at Mercedes corner on the 12th lap and immediately began a charge on the race leader.
Although Wittmann closed in on Rast, the gap between the pair was slow to close, as the leading Audi measured his pace as his Hankook tyres began to age. On a cool and gripless circuit, the leading group began to lose approximately 1.5s per lap compared to the early stoppers.
Searching for an undercut, Wittmann stopped for fresh Hankook’s on lap 18, with Rast doing the same one tour later. “The first stint was OK,” said Wittmann later. “I did fall back to third place, but I managed to work my way back and closed the gap to René Rast just before the pit stop.” The BMW racer’s push was halted when the safety car was called to recover Philipp Eng’s stricken Team RMR machine.
With the field static for just over three laps, Rast led Wittmann and Rockenfeller once more; however, the restart allowed Wittmann a precious opportunity to press for the front once more.
Immediately Rast set the fastest lap of the race, only for Wittmann to go three tenths quick the next lap around and then push his way into the lead on lap 24. Undimmed by losing the top spot, Rast instantly fought back against Wittmann and retook the lead on lap 26 and this time Wittmann had no answer.
His challenge broken, Wittmann dropped over two seconds behind Rast, with the gap holding until the conclusion on lap 38. “That was an outstanding race,” said a jubilant Rast. “In the race, [Wittmann] came very close to me at times. We had a nice battle for some laps but in the end, I was clearly faster and won the race!”
Rockenfeller fell away from the leading pair in the second half of the race, spending much of his time fending off Audi stablemate Nico Müller; however, that fight was called off when Müller was forced to make his mandatory stop five laps from the end. For Rockenfeller, 3rd represented another good result in what has been positive run since Norisring, which leaves him 4th in the points standings.
Robin Frijns enjoyed a quiet run to 4th. The Audi racer was in something of a no man’s land toward the end of the race and was several seconds ahead of 5th place Loïc Duval, making it four Audi’s in the top five.
Duval had enjoyed an on-off battle with Timo Glock through much of the race, as they mixed it with WRT Audi driver Jonathan Aberdein in the early running. Aberdein, however, was removed from contention when he was punted into a spin by teammate Pietro Fittipaldi on lap 21, leaving Aberdein to run around near the back of the pack.
Thereafter Duval battled and swapped positions with Jake Dennis (R-Motorsport) and also passed Glock five tours from the end, eventually closing out the top five. Glock stayed with Duval for a short time, but dropped back as he fought with Paul di Resta (R-Motorsport) and Bruno Spengler (BMW) staying ahead of both to solidify 6th, 7th and 8th positions.
Jenson Button was the highest of the GT500 finishers, with the Honda NSX taking 9th. Starting 6th, Button dropped three places at the start, but lost further ground when he suffered a slow pitstop on lap 18. Emerging from the stops in 15th place, Button had a good restart following the safety car and would eventually take Jamie Green (Audi), Sheldon van der Linde (BMW), and Dennis to come home 9th.
Joel Eriksson enjoyed a quiet day to round out the top ten for BMW, but with Button not scoring points, Dennis took 11th place and the final point, just edging Green by half-a-second across the line.
Ryo Hirakawa stopped twice and ended the day 13th for the KeePer TOM’s Lexus team, while Aberdein could only recover to 14th. Fittipalsi received a drive through penalty for hitting his teammate, which left him a dejected 15th, while van der Linde finished 16th after he received a drive through penalty for forcing Button off the track.
Müller was classified 17th. The one-time championship challenger was adjudged to have taken his stop under the safety car, forcing to take his mandatory tyre change again toward the end of the race.
Tsugio Matsuda missed the first half of the race when his propshaft broke on the warm-up lap. He emerged in the second half of the race to secure some much needed track time, while both Dani Juncadella (R-Motorsport) and Eng stopped with undiagnosed mechanical issues.