Lights-to-flag victory for Lucas Auer – “Rocky” catches up from behind
What a heart-stopping finale in the DTM season opener. Thrilling overtaking manoeuvres, spectacular recoveries, pure racing and an overjoyed lights-to-flag race winner were the ingredients of Saturday’s first race at the Hockenheimring. In the final laps of the race, Lucas Auer defended his pole position with a spirited drive to hold off a regularly charging Timo Glock. On the penultimate lap, the cars of the Mercedes-AMG driver and the BMW stalwart even slightly collided at the hairpin. It was the emotional highlight of a hard duel. After a rough ride throughout the 36-lap race distance, Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller claimed third place. The new regulations led to an action-packed race. To reflect this, a driver from each of the participating brands was on the podium after the race.
“That was really tough. My tyres were gone and I had to defend first place. I knew that victory was mine when I would be able to hold off Timo’s first two attacks. That was a great show for the fans,” Lucas Auer said. He is only too happy to take the role as the hunted for the race on Sunday: “I rather start like this than the other way round.” Notwithstanding the demanding race, the Austrian still had enough power to pump his fist into the air as he jumped for joy onto the podium. After the start, Auer pulled clear from the opposition and was almost beyond reach. His margin quickly increased to about nine seconds. “He just pulled away,” Timo Glock was still amazed about the rocket start of the eventually winner after the race.
But it was not just the final chord, it was the entire race that provided high-quality motor racing action with plenty of position changes. In the process, Mike Rockenfeller and Mattias Ekström shone in particular. Thanks to clever strategies, the two Audi drivers made excellent progress from the back of the field. While ‘Rocky’ already came in for his pit stop after nine laps, Ekström, who also posted the fastest race lap time of 1m33.201s, remained on track while in the lead until lap 26. After the fastest pit stop of all the teams at 6.9 seconds, the Swede, who had started from the penultimate grid position, rejoined the race in eighth place and eventually worked his way up to finish fifth. ‘Rocky’, who moved up from 16th place on the grid to finish on the podium, made up even more positions. “Being on the podium again is mega cool. I had promised my wife and my son that I would be bringing a trophy home again this year. That worked out. From 16th place on the grid, I didn’t really expect this, but the strategy was good. We gave it everything we had,” Rockenfeller said with a wide grin on his face.
Right from the start, Timo Glock was in the middle of the action. He overtook Edoardo Mortara in the first corner and Gary Paffett on lap two, but the Mercedes-AMG driver didn’t give in just like that. Again and again, he put Glock under pressure. On lap nine, Paffett locked up under braking and thus dropped back to fourth behind Mortara. Glock, meanwhile, remained Auer’s fiercest rival after the pit stop. On the final four laps, the BMW driver had a sufficient number of DRS activations, but to no avail. Auer defended forcefully and didn’t give in one inch. “I noticed that Lucas was struggling towards the end and I did my utmost, but he did it very well. I am happy that I was able to give something back to my team with second place today. That was hard racing and that is what the DTM is about,” Glock enthused.