Moscow DTM: Engel takes shock maiden win in frantic race
Maro Engel benefited from an early safety car period to score a shock win, the first one of his DTM career in the Sunday race at Moscow Raceway.
Mercedes driver Engel, who returned to DTM in 2017, hadn't finished higher than sixth in his first stint in the series in 2008-2011 – and had just four points to his name in the current standings ahead of Sunday.
But the German, who lined up on the back row of the grid, made the most of a profitable stop in the first lap, overtaking both Loic Duval and reigning champion Marco Wittmann later on en route to victory.
Having inherited pole position when fellow BMW driver Tom Blomqvist was excluded from qualifying, Bruno Spengler moved to block the fast-starting Mattias Ekstrom off the line, the Swede forced to abandon the move as he neared the inside wall.
Spengler then built up his lead to a second over the opening lap, and it fluctuated around that mark before the safety car came out on lap six.
BMW driver Maxime Martin - running towards the back of the pack after he was pushed wide by Duval at Turn 1 - was the culprit, going off into the barriers, his car's brakes erupting in flames.
The subsequent four-lap interruption bunched up the pack, which was of great benefit to Wittmann, Duval, Engel and Blomqvist, the quartet having all pitted on the opening lap.
Shortly after the race got underway again, Ekstrom nudged Spengler wide in the final corner to take the lead of the race.
He then pushed for a few laps in clean air and came into the pits for his mandatory stop on lap 16, but the Swede rejoined almost 20 seconds behind Wittmann – who soon cycled through to the front.
However, he wasn't leading, because Audi kept Nico Muller out on track, the Swiss driver dropping back and now specifically holding up the early-stoppers.
For many laps, Wittmann was unable to find a way past Muller – and on lap 22 the BMW driver instead fell prey to a cut-back move from Engel heading out of the final corner.
Engel was not able to get past Muller either and would have to shadow him until the Swiss driver finally came in on lap 33.
In the meantime, the initial gap to Ekstrom was coming down with each lap and, entering the final minutes of the race, the Swede was on the tail of Blomqvist.
Picking off the early-stoppers one by one, Ekstrom got close to Engel on the final lap, but crossed the finish line 0.3s off.
Also charging in the late stages was Spengler, who eventually brought the car home in third place for a record fifth Moscow Raceway podium.
Spengler had slipped behind the late-stopping Audi of Jamie Green, but when the Briton caught up to Wittmann and forced him wide in the final corner, the Canadian picked up the pieces.
Green also surrendered a spot to fellow Audi driver Rene Rast and finished fifth, with Wittmann coming home in sixth and Audi's Mike Rockenfeller seventh.
Blomqvist was shuffled down to eighth place at the chequered flag, finishing just ahead of Mercedes duo Lucas Auer and Robert Wickens.
Duval, meanwhile, ended up out of the points after late-race contact with the Mercedes of Paul di Resta, who was firmly in podium contention but was forced to retire because of the crash.
In the championship standings, Ekstrom has retaken the lead from Rast by one point, with Auer now a further 15 adrift.
UPDATE: A five-second penalty for Rockenfeller, for exceeding the maximum permitted number of DRS uses, dropped him from seventh to 12th in the final results - elevating Blomqvist, Auer and Wickens.
With Gary Paffett also being hit with a 30-second penalty for an incident with Duval, it meant Edoardo Mortara claimed the final point despite finishing 12th on the road.
|1||Maro Engel||Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM||56'41.087|
|2||Mattias Ekström||Audi RS5 DTM||0.376|
|3||Bruno Spengler||BMW M4 DTM||3.981|
|4||René Rast||Audi RS5 DTM||4.702|
|5||Jamie Green||Audi RS5 DTM||5.410|
|6||Marco Wittmann||BMW M4 DTM||7.192|
|7||Tom Blomqvist||BMW M4 DTM||8.391|
|8||Lucas Auer||Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM||8.564|
|9||Robert Wickens||Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM||8.982|
|10||Edoardo Mortara||Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM||9.942|
|11||Augusto Farfus||BMW M4 DTM||10.919|
|12||Audi RS5 DTM||12.416*|
|13||Timo Glock||BMW M4 DTM||12.505|
|14||Loic Duval||Audi RS5 DTM||19.913|
|15||Nico Müller||Audi RS5 DTM||37.728|
|16||Gary Paffett||Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM||39.267*|
|Ret||Paul di Resta||Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM||4 laps|
|Ret||Maxime Martin||BMW M4 DTM||-|
* includes penalty
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