Thriller in Moscow: Audi driver Ekström in front again

After René Rast and Mike Rockenfeller perfected the one-two victory in a lights-to-flag victory on Saturday, Mattias Ekström with a spectacular comeback on Sunday, recaptured the lead in the DTM. Three Audi drivers are now ranking in the top four spots of the overall classification.

Saturday’s race: Rast in front of “Rocky”, Audi with one-two win in Moscow

René Rast continues to cause a sensation in his first DTM season. In spite of never having been to Russia before and knowing Moscow Raceway near Moscow only from the simulator, the driver from Audi Sport Team Rosberg secured pole position on Saturday and went on to clinch one of the rare lights-to-flag victories in the DTM. With that, the German, after nine of 18 races, is leading the standings by a narrow margin, trailed by Lucas Auer (Mercedes-Benz) and Mattias Ekström (Audi).

“It was an awesome race,” said Rast, following his second DTM victory. “The car was mega, the pit stop superb – a big thank you to the team! Being in the top spot of the championship again is a tremendous feeling.”

No less impressive was the second place clinched by Mike Rockenfeller who, following his accident at the Norisring in which he was not at fault, raced with a broken left foot, having to use his right one for braking at Moscow Raceway. “This isn’t so easy in the DTM,” said the campaigner from Audi Sport Team Phoenix who had started the race from position two on the grid and went on to follow René Rast on 38 laps like a shadow. In the early stage, “Rocky” countered an attack by BMW driver Augusto Farfus and on clinching second place maintained his chances of winning the title. “For my mechanics and me, today is a great day. They worked so hard to put the car together again after the Norisring and I think that there weren’t a lot of people expecting us to manage this here. That makes me all the prouder of my team.”

Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass could only agree with that. “A superb one-two victory for Audi! René (Rast) showed a fantastic performance from A to Z: pole position and a lights-to-flag win. And that Mike (Rockenfeller) with a broken foot finished in position two battling against the best drivers in the world’s best touring car series is really impressive.”

For the other Audi drivers, Saturday did not go so well. Mattias Ekström (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline), who had started as the leader of the standings, dropped far behind as early as on the starting lap after being bumped by BMW driver Timo Glock and subsequently lost additional positions in a duel with Lucas Auer. The Swede still managed to advance to position eight and on the finish line even came close to intercepting Gary Paffett (Mercedes-Benz) in another photo finish.

Jamie Green, as well, was hit hard by a rival on the starting lap and drove his damaged Audi RS 5 DTM home in position nine. Nico Müller crossed the finish line in tenth place, but due to a jump start, retroactively received a five-second penalty. Loïc Duval, on taking position ten, showed a good qualifying performance but, having received a third warning in total this season, was handed a grid penalty putting him on position 15. In spite of this, the Frenchman just barely missed out on scoring his first point in the DTM.

Sunday’s race: Audi driver Ekström in front again

Sunday’s race at Moscow Raceway was a real thriller. Following an early safety car period, the drivers who had not pitted yet for their tire change had a disadvantage. They included Mattias Ekström who, after having clearly led the race in the beginning, dropped to tenth place, having to recover position by position afterwards. The toughest rival he was up against in his comeback drive was reigning champion Marco Wittmann (BMW) whom Ekström, following a fierce duel on the penultimate lap, displaced from position two. Subsequently, the Audi driver still chased race leader Maro Engel (Mercedes-Benz), who had changed tires as early as on lap one and was clearly slower than Ekström in the final stage. On seeing the checkered flag, the Swede was merely 0.376 seconds short of clinching his first win this season.

“After Budapest, this is the second time a safety car cost me victory,” Ekström said after the race marked by tough duels and spectacular overtaking maneuvers. “In the beginning, I was battling for the lead with Bruno (Spengler). On the long run, I was faster and able to overtake him. As a result of the safety car, the cards were reshuffled. From then on, it was a highly entertaining race. In the end, I’m very happy with second place today, 20 points from qualifying and the races, plus the lead of the standings.”

At Moscow Raceway on Sunday, nothing was handed for free to the other Audi drivers either. René Rast, Jamie Green (both Audi Sport Team Rosberg) and Mike Rockenfeller (Audi Sport Team Phoenix) with bold maneuvers from rear positions advanced to fourth (Rast), fifth (Green) and seventh (Rockenfeller) place. After the end of the race, Rockenfeller received a 5-second time penalty that cost him his position in the points.

Loïc Duval was in the group of drivers having pitted before the safety car period. As a result of this strategy, the Frenchman was running in fourth place some of the time, but shortly before the end of the race was touched by two rivals and dropped to position 14. By contrast, Nico Müller drove an exceedingly long first stint. Up until four laps before the race ended, the Swiss was defending his lead before making his pit stop.

“That was an incredibly thrilling race,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass. “From lights to flag, there were gripping duels and overtaking maneuvers. This race had everything DTM fans would like to see. Without the safety car we might have been able to win today as well. But even so, it was a good result for us on the whole, with three cars in the points, plus one podium. In all the championships, we’re now in a good position.” 

The drivers’ classification is now led by Mattias Ekström, trailed by René Rast with a one-point deficit. Jamie Green and Mike Rockenfeller maintain positions four and six. In the manufacturers’ standings, Audi has extended its advantage to 90 points. In the teams’ classification, two Audi teams – Audi Sport Team Rosberg and Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline – are in the top spots after ten of 18 races.

The DTM will continue at Zandvoort on the Dutch North Sea Coast on August 19 and 20.