Hockenheim DTM: Muller fends off Rast to set up showdown

Nico Muller pulled off a late move on Rene Rast to win the penultimate DTM race of the season at Hockenheim and keep the title race alive heading into Sunday’s title decider.

Title contenders Muller and Rast were engaged in a race-long battle at the German venue, the two trading places several times as two safety car periods added an extra element to the championship fight.

Muller eventually held off Rast in a tense finish to win by 0.6 seconds, ensuring he remains only 13 points behind the German with 28 still available on Sunday.

At the start of the race, Muller made a stronger launch than polesitter Rast and made a lunge into Turn 1, the two title protagonists banging wheels as Rast was forced well off track.

Muller emerged in the lead, but the race was soon neutralised for a collision between BMW’s Marco Wittmann and WRT Audi’s Harrison Newey that sent both drivers into retirement.

Muller made a perfect restart to build a 0.6s buffer in one lap, only for Rast to close the gap and attempt a move around the outside of the hairpin on the following tour.

While that attempt proved unsuccessful, Rast got a much better run coming out of Turn 5 the next time around and he breezed past Muller to return to the front.

Muller launched a counterattack and tried to repass Rast twice at the hairpin, but the Team Rosberg driver managed to rebuff each of his attempts to maintain the status quo.

When the pitstops began, Muller was the first to head to the pitlane on lap 17, with Rast following in on the next lap.

The undercut worked for Muller, with Rast dropping not only behind him but also the Audis of Robin Frijns and Jamie Green.

However, with the advantage that Rast had, he swiftly cleared Muller’s teammate Frijns before passing his own teammate Green with relative ease on lap 22.

By that time Muller had stretched a four-second buffer out front, but Rast managed to wipe out his title rival’s advantage in short order, and was on his tail by lap 27.

On the following tour, Rast replicated the same move he had pulled off on Muller early in the race, passing the Abt Audi driver well before the hairpin to snatch the lead.

At this point it appeared that Rast had done enough to take victory, but a retirement for BMW’s Timo Glock brought out a late safety car, throwing a spanner in the works.

After Glock’s car was retrieved, the race resumed for a handful of laps, with Muller right on the tail of Rast and with Green not far behind in third.

Assisted with DRS and push-to-pass, Muller dived around the outside of Rast heading into the hairpin and, although he overshot the corner, he did enough to take the lead.

Rast put intense pressure on Muller in the closing stages of the race, but the Swiss driver did enough to hold on to take the victory, taking the title battle to Sunday’s finale.

Green finished just behind the title rivals in third, returning to the podium for the first time since the season opener at Spa. Loic Duval finished nearly five seconds behind in fourth, with his Phoenix teammate Mike Rockenfeller making it an all-Audi top five.

Jonathan Aberdein was classified as the top BMW driver in sixth, ahead of Audi’s Robin Frijns, who is now mathematically out of the title fight.

Robert Kubica was sandwiched by Wittmann and Kubica at the start, but avoided damage in his ART-run BMW to finish eighth and secure his third points finish of the season.

BMW duo Philipp Eng and Sheldon van der Linde rounded out the top 10, the latter slipping down the order after contending for the final podium position at one stage.

Race results:

1 Nico MüllerAudi RS5 Turbo DTM 2020 
2 René RastAudi RS5 Turbo DTM 2020 0.622
3 Jamie GreenAudi RS5 Turbo DTM 2020 1.033
4 Loic DuvalAudi RS5 Turbo DTM 2020 4.960
5 Mike RockenfellerAudi RS5 Turbo DTM 2020 6.311
6 Jonathan AberdeinBMW M4 Turbo DTM 2020 6.580
7 Robin FrijnsAudi RS5 Turbo DTM 2020 6.727
8 Robert KubicaBMW M4 Turbo DTM 2020 8.668
9 Philipp EngBMW M4 Turbo DTM 2020 9.025
10 Sheldon Van Der LindeBMW M4 Turbo DTM 2020 11.056
11 Ferdinand HabsburgAudi RS5 Turbo DTM 2020 12.646
12 Lucas AuerBMW M4 Turbo DTM 2020 15.244
13 Fabio SchererAudi RS5 Turbo DTM 2020 5 Laps
14 Timo GlockBMW M4 Turbo DTM 2020 9 Laps
15 Harrison NeweyAudi RS5 Turbo DTM 2020 
16 Marco WittmannBMW M4 Turbo DTM 2020 
View full results

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