René Rast on course for title after victory in 500th DTM race

René Rast continues to lead the DTM after recovering from a retirement on the Saturday to win the Sunday’s 500th race (photo: Hoch Zwei)

René Rast claimed his fifth win of the season in the 500th DTM at Lausitzring and extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship. Behind Rast, second to fifth places went to fellow Audi racers Nico Müller, Mike Rockenfeller, Jamie Green and Robin Frijns as the Ingolstadt carmaker secured early confirmation of victory in the Manufacturers’ Championship. In the Saturday race, Nico Müller won to close the gap on Rast, who was forced to retire with technical issues. Frijns and Rockenfeller were second and third to make it a one-two-three for Audi. Track temperatures were high for both races – up to 40 degrees Celsius on Sunday – while Hankook’s Ventus Race tyres impressed with a high level of grip on the smooth surface.

After retiring from Saturday’s race at the Lausitzring, Rast returned with an impressive performance on Sunday. Starting from fourth on the grid, the Audi driver got off to a flying start and moved up two places, overtook leading driver and pole-sitter Jamie Green (Audi) on lap four, and then controlled the race from the front. Rast came in for a new set of Hankook race tyres on lap twelve, before extending his lead and claiming the 15th win of his DTM career, crossing the line with a 5.1-second lead after 34 laps.

Fellow Audi driver Müller started from third position, before losing ground at the start and falling back to tenth. After an early pit stop on lap eight, he was able to take advantage of the consistently fast Hankook race tyre to move back up to second place. Ahead of the final four DTM races, he is 20 points behind leader Rast. Just as on Saturday, Mike Rockenfeller secured the final podium spot ahead of fellow Audi men Jamie Green and Robin Frijns. The best-placed BMW driver was Marco Wittmann in sixth place. The two-time champion is now third in the overall standings, 67 points behind the leader, and with only a faint chance of claiming his third DTM title. Daniel Juncadella guided the fastest Aston Martin to twelfth place.

Nico Müller records second win

DTM reached the landmark at the Lausitzring (photo: Hoch Zwei)

Everything seemed to be going to plan at first for pole-sitter Rast in race number 13 of the 2019 DTM season. The Audi driver defended his position at the start and led the field at first. However, the 32-year-old suddenly slowed down and, after a complete loss of power, was eventually forced to retire on lap eight. That opened the door for fellow Audi man Müller, who adopted the lead after Rast’s retirement. The Swiss came in for his tyre change on lap 14 and, after 34 laps on his second set of Hankook race tyres, went on to cross the finish line in first place. Müller’s second win of the season saw him cut the gap to championship leader Rast to 14 points.

Manfred Sandbichler, Hankook motorsport director Europe, said following the Saturday race that the “title race is wide open again” following Rast’s retirement.

Müller himself added: “You are always a little bit unsure about the Saturday race, as you don’t know how quickly the tyre is going to degrade. Today, we had very little tyre wear. The Hankook race tyres worked flawlessly and we completed the full distance without any issues. I still had a little in reserve in the end, and was able to lap quickly on the Hankook tyres. I am very happy with today.”

Following the next day’s racing, Sandbichler added: “After failing to score points on Saturday, René Rast returned with a dominant performance to secure an impressive victory in the 500th DTM race and consolidate his position at the head of the Drivers’ standings. Fellow Audi driver Nico Müller is still in a promising position and we can look forward to some thrilling DTM races at the Nürburgring and at the finale in Hockenheim. The Hankook race tyre once again showed just how well it can perform in these high temperatures, making it possible for each driver to select their own, individual pit stop strategy.”

Rast said: “I managed really well with the Hankook race tyres and my pace with them was good. There was just one tricky moment, when there was a lot of dirt on the track and my front-left wheel briefly came to a standstill. Overall, the Hankook race tyre was very consistent and did a good job.”

Müller added: “In these high temperatures, keeping the rear axle alive was more difficult than on Saturday. I showed a bit too much respect during my second stint and drove too defensively. At the end of the race, the Hankook race tyres were in far better condition than I had expected and they worked really well, which allowed me to get closer to René again.”

Rockenfeller added: “I did very well with the Hankook race tyres over the whole race weekend here at the Lausitzring. They were fast in qualifying and very consistent in the race. I drove a long second stint today and, at the end, I was worried that Jamie would catch me, as his tyres were fresher. But my Hankook race tyres held up until the finish, which meant that I was able to secure third place.”

BMW Marco Wittmann provided another perspective, having trailed his Audi counterparts: “I started brilliantly on Saturday, but I was struggling with wheelspin today. It’s almost impossible to do anything about that with more than 600 hp, and I lost two places at the start. In today’s race, we completed two equally long stints with scrubbed Hankook tyres. They worked well and were reliable, and I was able to improve my position somewhat. However, we had no chance against the Audi armada.”

Audi Sport Team Phoenix recorded the fastest pit stop at the Lausitzring with a time of 40.115 seconds, which is rewarded with 25 points in the overall standings for the Best Pit Stop Award, the unofficial pit crew championship from Hankook.

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