René Rast looked set to take his third race win of the DTM season in race one at Misano, after leading from pole and managing the safety car restart on lap seven.
The Audi Sport Team Rosberg driver was managing the tyres, and the gap to Audi Sport Team Phoenix driver Loïc Duval who was within two seconds of Rast for the majority of the race.
After making his mandatory pitstop, Rast found himself in second place an excess of 30 seconds behind BMW Team RMG driver Marco Wittmann who did not need to stop again.
“I didn’t see him for a very long time,” explained the 2017 DTM champion, “sometimes I could spot him on the monitors, and I was waiting for the cliff, for his tyres to break down, but it never came.”
Wittmann shocked the paddock by making his Hankook tyres last some 38 laps, a stint length deemed unthinkable by teams, and held on to lead Rast by 8 seconds at the checkered flag.
“I didn’t give up, I just tried to push as hard as I can and if I would have lost the race by a few tenths I would’ve been very angry afterwards.
“So I tried to push as hard as I can and see what would happen, but in the end he was still way too far away.”
Despite being on tyres around 14 laps fresher than Wittmann, the Audi driver still needed to manage his set in the final laps.
“I just did about over 20 laps on the tyres, so I didn’t feel that cliff, so I as well was trying to manage the tyres.
“In the last five laps, if you push like a maniac, you feel like the tyres have gone.”
For the first time this season Rast finished the opening race of the weekend, and with his points for pole position and second place he now leads the championship with 79 points.
However the Audi-ace believes it is still too early to start talking about his second DTM title.
“It’s still very early. The third weekend of the DTM championship, we still have 13 races, we don’t have to talk about the championship till then.”