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Nico Müller keeps title chances alive with close race one win

Nico Müller beat René Rast to victory in the opening DTM race at the Hockenheimring to keep his title chances alive, taking the lead in the final laps to close to 13 points from the series leader.

Pole-sitter Rast initially lost the lead to Müller at the first corner, as the Swiss racer made a slightly better start and held the inside line into the turn.

At the rear of the field, Robert Kubica was squeezed in between Marco Wittmann and Harrison Newey, pitching the BMW and Audi across the front of his car and taking the two drivers out at the first corner as they ended in the tyre barrier.

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A four-lap safety car period would be required to recover the cars, with racing resuming on lap six and Müller cleanly holding his lead ahead of Rast.

It took three laps before Rast found a way past Müller to take the lead for the first time, using his Drag Reduction System (DRS) and Push-to-Pass to get by on the main straight approaching the hairpin.

Although Rast built up a lead of just over a second, Müller clawed it back in a few laps later and pressured for the lead, before Rast edged away again.

Lap 17 saw Müller make his mandatory stop, followed one lap later by Rast. The Abt Sportsline driver would emerge from the pitstop phase in the lead, passing Rast just a corner after the German exited the pits on cold tyres, as the points leader also dropped behind the early-pitting Robin Frijns and Team Rosberg team-mate Jamie Green.

Rast took third from Frijns two laps later, and Green another two laps after that as his team-mate didn’t make it hard for Rast to re-take second.

By this stage Müller was over three seconds ahead, but within five laps Rast was all over the back of his rival and on lap 28 he re-took the lead, again with the use of DRS approaching the hairpin.

The safety car then had to be called for on lap 29 after timo Glock went off at Turn 13 into the gravel, inexplicably running wide into the gravel.

Racing only resumed our laps later, and after two laps Müller found a way by Rast for the lead once again, this time using DRS to his advantage on the back straight.

Rast looked like he didn’t have another challenge for Müller and crossed the finish line six tenths behind, although the German later admitted that he hadn’t realised it was the last lap and was planning an attack on the final tour.

Müller’s win closes the points gap to 13 ahead of Sunday’s season finale, with Green completing the podium for only his second visit to the rostrum this season.

Audi’s Loïc Duval was fourth, ahead of Mike Rockenfeller in fifth, who had salvaged a result thanks to making a second pitstop under the late safety car period.

Jonathan Aberdein was the leading BMW driver in sixth, ahead of Frijns, who is now officially out of title contention, in seventh, the Dutchman also benefitting from a late second stop.

BMW’s Kubica was eighth after maming ground in the last laps thanks to fresh rubber, whilst the top ten was completed by BMW’s Philipp Eng and Sheldon van der Linde.

WRT’s Fabio Scherer didn’t take the chequered flag after the Swiss pulled into the pits just before the second restart, having only just put on fresh tyres the lap previously whilst running in 11th.

Race result

1 51 Nico MÜLLER Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline Audi RS5 DTM 36 1:01:11.045 1:31.039 2
2 33 René RAST Audi Sport Team Rosberg Audi RS5 DTM 36 0.622 1:30.487 1
3 53 Jamie GREEN Audi Sport Team Rosberg Audi RS5 DTM 36 1.033 1:31.472 3
4 28 Loïc DUVAL Audi Sport Team Phoenix Audi RS5 DTM 36 4.960 1:31.231 7
5 99 Mike ROCKENFELLER Audi Sport Team Phoenix Audi RS5 DTM 36 6.311 1:31.428 9
6 27 Jonathan ABERDEIN BMW Team RMR BMW M4 DTM 36 6.580 1:31.861 6
7 4 Robin FRIJNS Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline Audi RS5 DTM 36 6.727 1:30.907 8
8 8 Robert KUBICA BMW Team ART Audi RS5 DTM 36 8.668 1:32.030 11
9 25 Philipp ENG BMW Team RBM BMW M4 DTM 36 9.025 1:32.212 5
10 31 Sheldon VAN DER LINDE BMW Team RBM BMW M4 DTM 36 11.056 1:31.480 4
11 62 Ferdinand VON HABSBURG Audi Sport Team WRT Audi RS5 DTM 36 12.646 1:31.653 12
12 22 Lucas AUER BMW Team RMR BMW M4 DTM 36 15.244 1:32.934 16
13 13 Fabio SCHERER Audi Sport Team WRT Audi RS5 DTM 31 + 5 LAPS 1:31.994 10
R 16 Timo GLOCK BMW Team RMG BMW M4 DTM 27 DNF 1:32.535 13
R 10 Harrison NEWEY Audi Sport Team WRT Audi RS5 DTM 0 DNF N/A 15
DTM points deficit after Round 17
Graphic: TouringCars.Net
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