DTM Lausitzring: Van der Linde wins for Audi in twice red-flagged opener

DTM Lausitzring: Van der Linde wins for Audi in twice red-flagged opener

Despite heavy rain prompting two red flag periods and leading to a start/stop race, van der Linde kept his calm to convert pole position into a dominant victory over the Mercedes of Maro Engel. 

Defending champion Thomas Preining ended up third in the Manthey EMA Porsche, making it three different manufacturers on the podium.

The race got underway at 5pm local time with the sun shining brightly on the track, as Ricardo Feller got the jump on front-row starter Preining to establish an Abt 1-2 behind team-mate van der Linde.

Although the first raindrops were spotted as early as lap 2, it wasn’t until the fourth tour that it started pouring down properly, completely changing the complexion of the race.

The first batch of cars headed to the pitlane at the end of lap 5, with Arjun Maini in the HRT Mercedes the leading driver to make the switch to wet tyres. Roughly half the field decided to stay out at this point, partly because of the expected time loss from double-stacking in the pits.

As the rain continued to get heavier, the remainder of the field entered the pits over the next two laps, with van der Linde managing to stay ahead of Mercedes duo Maro Engel and Maini, both of whom had pitted at the first opportunity.

SSR Performance’s Nicki Thiim and Porsche ace Preining ran fourth and fifth at this stage, with Thiim later on overtaking Maini for third.

With rain showing no signs of abating and drivers complaining about standing water on track, the safety car was deployed soon after, before the red flag was waved after just 14 minutes of running.

A 15-minute delay followed before the session could resume behind the safety car again, although it didn’t take long for the race control to bring proceedings to a halt again.

It wasn’t until 6pm local time that the race resumed in earnest after another three laps behind the safety car, with van der Linde fending off Engel to hold on to the lead.

The South African continued to extend his advantage with every passing lap, building a buffer of four seconds by lap 22 before returning to the pits to complete his mandatory stop.

As the track began to dry out in the closing stages, the former factory Audi driver was unchallenged at the front, taking the chequered with a 2.5s lead to celebrate his first DTM win since last year’s Red Bull Ring round.

Engel finished another four seconds clear of Preining, who benefitted from a botched pitstop for Thiim that dropped the Dane to eighth at the finish.

Engel’s team-mate Lucas Auer finished a solid fourth, having made up a number of places thanks to some rapid pitwork by the Winward crew, while Feller took fifth despite losing out a huge chunk of time in the initial round of pitstops.

Sheldon van der Linde dragged his Schubert BMW from 12th on the grid to a solid sixth place, overcoming a long-lap penalty for an unsafe release that dropped him back down to 13th.

Maini ended up seventh at the finish, despite being the first of the frontrunners to pit when the rain first hit the track, as Thiim likewise took a disappointing eighth-place finish after running strongly early on.

The top 10 was completed by GRT Lamborghini’s Christian Engelhart and Luca Stolz, both recovering from penalties related to pitstop infringements.

Factory Lamborghini driver Mirko Bortolotti gambled on slick tyres in an inspired call as the track began to rapidly dry out in the closing stages of the race, with the extra grip from the non-grooved rubber allowing him to rise from last place with less than 20 minutes remaining to 11th at the finish.

Maximilian Paul (Paul Lamborghini), Marco Wittmann (Schubert BMW), Luca Engstler (GRT Lamborghini) and Ayhancan Guven (Manthey EMA Porsche) completed the points-scorers, the last-named crossing the finishing line with a left-rear puncture on his 911 GT3 R.

Race results:

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