Audi Sport Team Phoenix’s René Rast was pleased to reduce his points deficit in the championship by taking victory after an “incredibly tough” opening Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters race at the Red Bull Ring.
Rast, who started ninth on the grid, gained positions by staying out longer before his pit stop, before battling past Wittmann for fourth position late in the race.
After leader Daniel Juncadella received a drive-through penalty for jumping the restart on the final lap, fellow Audi drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Nico Müller aided Rast’s title hopes by letting the double Nürburgring winner through in the final two corners.
This move for Rast to score his seventh DTM victory crucially put two cars in between him and new standings leader Paul Di Resta, who finished fourth.
Rast’s deficit in the championship standings is now 42 points to Di Resta, and 35 points to second-placed driver Gary Paffett.
After the race, Rast said: “Winning from ninth on the grid does not happen very often.
“It was an incredibly tough race and Mike (Rockenfeller) and Nico (Müller) would have deserved victory and second place, respectively.
“But in view of my chance to continue to keep the championship undecided and thrilling it was of course fantastic that they helped me.”
Rockenfeller had challenged polesitter Juncadella for the lead in the first phase of the 55-minute contest, and went on to finish second after sacrificing a race win to aid Rast’s title fight.
The 2013 champion emphasised the importance of helping out fellow Audi racer Rast for the championship.
“Obviously, you’d like to win yourself,” he said. “But René is our only chance in the title race.
“That’s why, at this stage of the championship, it was clear that we’d help him. We managed that well today.”
Head of Audi Motorsport, Dieter Gass, was delighted after what he described as an “incredible race” with an unexpected result.
“That was an incredible race with an incredible outcome for us,” he said.
“After qualifying, we hadn’t expected a one-two-three result, nor finishing with four cars in the top five. Today, simply everything played into our hands and we didn’t mind accepting the gifts from our competitors.
“We made no mistakes, whereas others did. That put us in the position to win the race. Obviously, that’s fantastic for us. Now we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”