Liam Lawson expertly fought off late pressure from pole-sitter Marco Wittmann to claim his second DTM win of the weekend at the Red Bull Ring in a race which culminated in a breathless last lap battle which was only decided as the pair crossed the line.
From the rolling start, it was Wittmann in the Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 who made the better getaway and led into turn one as Lawson decided to settle into second in his AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3. The pair were allowed to escape slightly after a brilliant side-by-side duel from Turn 1 all the way to Turn 4 between Sheldon van der Linde and Max Götz for third, which was only won by van der Linde under braking into the downhill left-hander at Turn 4.
Unfortunately, that battle didn’t get to really ignite as van der Linde’s string of bad luck in his ROWE Racing BMW continued into another race. First, he got a rear-right puncture – which he stressed was not from contact with Götz – which meant having to pit early, and then the team retired him early so he could save tyres for the next round.
Back at the front, that squabbling allowed Wittmann and Lawson to break away alone, with the BMW driver just edging a second clear of Lawson before becoming one of the first to pull into the pits to make his mandatory stop.
Lawson pitted one lap later, and it was slick work from his AF Corse crew that proved the race-changing moment. A 1.8sec faster stop for Lawson allowed the New Zealander to leap out of the pits ahead of Wittmann and into the net lead of the race – accounting for cars ahead that ran a longer strategy.
The pair worked well together to carve their way past the traffic that had yet to pit, until they got onto the back of Nico Müller – the Audi racer once again running a very long opening stint.
Lawson easily got past the Team Rosberg driver at Turn 3, but Wittmann was stuck behind Müller until Turn 1 on the following lap, allowing Lawson’s advantage to grow from a few tenths to just over a second.
While Wittmann set about closing that gap down, the BMW was only strongest in the first sector, with the Ferrari making back the time loss in the twistier middle part of the track.
On the final lap, it looked like the battle for victory would come down to the final sequence of corners as Lawson did everything he could to keep the BMW behind. Running through the final corner, Wittmann was right onto the back of the 488, and as they approached the chequered flag Wittmann tried to pull out and lunge ahead, but fell short by just 0.216sec as he couldn’t quite get enough grunt out of the corner.
Götz took another podium from Austria, the Haupt Racing Team driver having a pretty lonely run to the final step of the podium – 15sec behind the lead pair and almost 8sec clear of the battle behind.
That’s because Philip Ellis was on a mission to maintain his fourth place. Despite coming under increasing pressure from Lucas Auer, Vincent Abril and Dani Juncadella, the Team Winward driver didn’t put a foot wrong to bag another decent haul of points.
Auer took fifth after the chequered flag despite crossing the line in seventh, thanks to time penalties for both Abril and Juncadella. Abril was demoted to eighth, whilst Juncadella was demoted outside the top 10 to 12th, thanks to getting another five-second penalty for being out of position at the start.
Their penalties promoted Kelvin van der Linde to sixth, whilst Arjun Maini battled back from losing places early in the race to record another solid finish in seventh.
Behind Abril, Maxi Buhk took ninth to make it six Mercedes-AMG GT3s in the top 10, whilst Timo Glock rounded out the points finishers.
Victory for Lawson moves him up to second in the championship standings, 12 points behind Team Abt Sportsline’s Kelvin van der Linde who is on 147. Behind, the good weekend for both Götz and Wittmann keeps them well within the title fight on 131 and 121 points respectively with three rounds still to go.
The next round of the DTM sees the series tick off yet another country on the map with Assen the destination on September 18&19.
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