Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: DTM, Audi and BMW Motorsport
In a race where most excitement took place in the first half, Nico Müller scored his second career win for Audi. An early retirement for Marco Wittmann after a contact with René Rast, gave the opportunity to the latter to strengthen his lead in the championship.
René Rast underlined his great qualifying form in Misano in q2, taking yet his second pole position of the weekend. Behind him was Dutchman Robin Frijns, also showing a great qualifying form, having qualified in the top-5 in all six races this season. As a matter of fact, the whole top-5 consisted of only Audi-drivers: as Aberdein, Müller and debutant Fittipaldi all beat the best BMW M4 of yesterday's remarkable winner Marco Wittmann. R-Motorsport, running the Aston Martin Vantages in DTM, struggled with the pace in q2, resulting in the last four grid positions for race 2, Jake Dennis leading the grey squad. Guest-driver and Italian MotoGP star Andrea Dovizioso qualified in p14.
Robin Frijns clearly had a better start than yesterday, as he catapulted himself into the lead when the lights went out. This time it was Rast who was struggling to get of his place as he also had to let Müller, who went from p4 to p2, go. The fight was immediately on between the two championship leaders, as Wittmann passed Aberdein and Fittipaldi at the start and was literally beside Rast in the next couple of corners. The fight culminated in a contact between Rast and Wittman in the long left-hander at the middle of the track, after which a broken suspension forced Wittmann to retire. Wittmann blamed Rast immediately over the radio, but he didn't know that it was actually Aberdein, on the inside of Rast, who pushed the German into the white-green BMW.
As the dust settled after the tumult in lap 1, it was Frijns in the lead with a 0.8s gap to Müller. They were 1.5 seconds loose from the group Rast, Duval and Aberdein, then a small gap to Eriksson, Eng (both BMW) and Fittipaldi (Audi). Van der Linde and Dovizioso completed the top-10. Anticipating another early safety car like yesterday with Wittmann stopped in the grass, all manufacturers had one car make a lap 1 stop: Rockenfeller for Audi, Glock for BMW and Juncadella for Aston Martin. Sheldon van der Linde for BMW followed a lap later.
Some 7 laps into the race Rast had caught up with Müller and Frijns up ahead. Duval was some 3 seconds behind. The top 3 was now within a second and an interesting fight developed. Although all three were Audi's, Frijns and Müller are part of Team Abt Sportsline, were Rast is part of Team Rosberg. The skirmish in front, consisting of peeking and defending, gave Loïc Duval in 4th the opportunity to also catch up to rear wing of Rast, making it a 4-way fight for the lead.
After some three laps, Rast showed again that he was the fastest driver this weekend. Within a lap he managed to pass both Nico Müller and Robin Frijns for the lead and immediately pull a 1-second gap. A lap later, Müller also got passed Frijns to p2. In the meantime, Paul Di Resta had to stop on track with what seemed as either a loose left rear wheel or a flat tire.
Frijns, clearly struggling a bit for pace at this phase of the race, some 20 minutes in, simply isn't able to shake the bad luck in the last couple of races. This time it was Loïc Duval, his Audi-colleague, who pushed him around in lap 12, dropping him from p3 to p6 in the wink of an eye. Aberdein and Philipp Eng profited and were now in p4 and 5, two laps later Eng even managed to get past Aberdein. In the aftermath, Frijns lost another place to Joel Eriksson and Loïc Duval was served a drive-through for his action.
Right at that moment, the cameras switched back to René Rast, who suddenly lost all his pace. Müller had already passed when it became clear he suffered a left rear puncture. Luckily for him it happened in the last part of the track, giving him the opportunity to immediately come to the pits and limit the loss of time. Frijns came in with him. Rast rejoined in p10 with Fittipaldi, first of the cars that already stopped, well in front of him, Frijns rejoined in p12 with Mike Rockenfeller right under his rear wing. A lap later, Aberdein and Eriksson also came in for their obligatory tire change, rejoining a second or three behind Rast, meaning Rast didn't loose too many places with his flat tire.
Philipp Eng stopped another lap later, exactly at the mid-point of the race, rejoined right in front Rast, but on his cold tires didn't stand a chance to keep the Audi behind him. Last of the front-runners to make their stop was Nico Müller; he managed to stay in front of Fittipaldi. When his tires got up to temperature he had a gap of some two seconds to the Brazilian, who in turn now found Rast on his gearbox, with the BMW of Eng a couple of tenths behind. A bit further back, Frijns clearly found his pace again and managed to pass both Aberdein and Eriksson in one lap, securing p9 for the time being.
Rast didn't spend much time behind Fittipaldi and passed the Brazilian on his old tires a lap later, Philipp Eng followed right in his footsteps. The Austrian in the M4 really put the pressure on Rast, some six tenths between the number two and three. A lap later he could pass the RS 5 with a nice move: first peeking on the outside, and as Rast took the defending line, he then cut to the inside of Rast in a right-hander. Eng was now 2nd with some 23 minutes to go.
A couple of seconds back, Fittipaldi in 4th saw Robin Frijns get bigger and bigger in his rear view mirror. Some ten minutes later, Frijns was right on his tail. In the meantime, Müller had built an almost 7 seconds gap to Eng, who had Rast at about a second behind him, the gap to Fittipaldi was some 4 seconds with Frijns a second behind him. The best fight in that phase was between the two youngsters Aberdein and Eriksson, going door to door for a couple of turns, before Aberdein decided the skirmish to his advantage and took p7 at the time.
In the minutes that followed the only notable facts were a spin of Dovizioso and with some three minutes to go, Frijns finally got past Fittipaldi. The race bled out a bit, as Rast had to let Philipp Eng go, the Austrian in turn not able to close the gap to Müller in front. And so Müller took his second career win in Misano and was accompanied on the podium by Philipp Eng and René Rast. Frijns consolidated on p4 with Fittipaldi right behind him. Eriksson however saved his best for last: in another door to door fight that lasted a couple of turns, he secured p6 in the final lap, Aberdein had to settle for p7. Spengler, Van der Linde (both BMW) and Mike Rockenfeller completed the top 10.
Rast is still the championship leader with 93 points, with Eng now in second 10 points behind. Müller is the new number three (76), Wittmann dropped to p4 (68).
Next up is DTM's version of Monaco: 6th and 7th of July it's time for the Norisring!
For full standings (ENG) click here.
For race highlights (ENG) click here.