Nico Müller heads Audi 1-2-3-4-5 in Spa season opener
Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline’s Nico Müller won the first race of the 2020 DTM season at Spa-Francorchamps in style, leading a 1-2-3-4-5 for Audi Sport in a race marked by tyre wear issues.
At the start, Müller’s team-mate Robin Frijns started from pole, with the Swiss stalling slightly and almost lost the lead to Team Rosberg’s René Rast. The Swiss driver kept his foot down and managed to stay ahead at Eau Rouge, with Rast instead defending from BMW’s Timo Glock.
Further behind, BMW Motorsport’s Jonathan Aberdein fought WRT’s Fabio Scherer and ART Grand Prix’s Robert Kubica, with the South African overtaking Scherer at La Source on lap two.
The leading four Audis opened a gap to Glock, with Müller closing the gap to Frijns from lap four.
The Swiss overtook his team-mate at Les Combes for the lead of the race.
Further behind, both BMW Team RMG’s Marco Wittmann and Audi Team Phoenix’s Loïc Duval overtook Glock, as the German driver was struggling for pace. Glock also lost to Green for seventh place, as Duval put the pressure on Wittmann at Eau Rouge.
Duval closed to Wittmann’s rear bumper at La Source, overtaking the BMW driver at Eau Rouge on lap eight, with Wittmann now under pressure from Green and losing to the Briton at Pouhon.
Starting lap nine, six Audi RS 5 DTMs were in the top six positions of the race, as Wittmann rapidly lost ground to Green.
Rast, unhappy with the balance in his car, was unable to close the gap to Frijns, with Rockenfeller also reducing the distance to the reigning champion. Rocky came under Rast’s bumper at the end of lap nine, overtaking on the outside at La Source on lap ten.
Rast pitted at the end of lap ten for his mandatory pit stop, with Frijns doing so on the following lap, complaining that he had no front tyres left. The Dutch returned to the track just ahead of Rast, but the latter got ahead at Eau Rouge with his tyres up to temperature.
Müller pitted from the lead at the end of lap 12. After the entire field had completed their pit stops, the Swiss had an 11-second gap over Rast.
Wittmann managed to climb to fifth place, but was also running much slower than Green, with the Briton quickly closing the gap.
Both Frijns and Rockenfeller caught up with Rast on lap 19, with the Dutch trying a move at La Source and Rast defendeing hard. Frijns and Rockenfeller got ahead at Les Combes a lap later, with the 2013 champion getting ahead of the Team Abt Sportsline’s driver at Bruxelles.
Rast came into the pits for a second set of tyres on lap 21, falling to tenth place and battling with BMW’s Aberdein. Two laps later, Jamie Green overtook Frijns for fourth position, with the Dutch also struggling with his tyres.
Rockenfeller also started to suffer with his tyres with just three minutes to the end of the race, losing to both Duval and Green within a few corners on lap 24. BMW Team RBM’s Philipp Eng, with fresher tyres, overtook Frijns for fifth position on the same lap.
The closing stages of the race was spiced up by the fight between Duval and Green for the runner-up spot, with the Briton getting ahead at Blanchimont on the penultimate lap.
Rast continued his salvage run, overtaking Eng for fifth place at La Source on the last lap of the race.
At the chequered flag, Müller took the victory and is the first standings leader of the season, followed by Green and Duval completing the podium.
Rockenfeller was fourth, followed by Rast. Eng was the highest classified driver for BMW Motorsport in sixth place, ahead of series returnee Lucas Auer. Glock was eight, with Frijns dropping to ninth at the line.
Aberdein fought to the end, pipping Wittmann at the finishing line for tenth place and the last of the championship scoring positions.
The debutants didn’t have a good day, with WRT’s Scherer in 12th place, followed by team-mate Harrison Newey and Kubica.
The DTM returns to action on Sunday morning at 10:45 CEST for the qualifying session for Race 2.