Kelvin van der Linde took his fourth DTM win of the season at Hockenheim to draw level with Liam Lawson at the top of the standings.
The Audi driver bounced back from a difficult couple of rounds by dominating the opening race of the weekend from pole ahead of 2022 Williams Formula 1 driver Alex Albon, who stormed from ninth on the grid to second.
Albon’s Ferrari team-mate Lawson looked on course for third and a three-point championship lead until Mike Rockenfeller did his team-mate van der Linde a favour by snatching the final podium place on the last lap.
Van der Linde led away at the rolling start from Winward Mercedes driver Lucas Auer, who ran wide through the first corner. Despite also running off track, Daniel Juncadella made a bid for second at turn two, but the GruppeM Mercedes driver then lost positions after contact with the HRT Mercedes of Maxi Gotz.
That allowed Red Bull junior Lawson up into third before coming under attack from Arjun Maini into the hairpin. But Maini clattered into Auer after braking too late and stopped on the spot with damage to his Mercedes, while Auer retired in the pits.
After a safety car period to recover Maini’s car, van der Linde again controlled the rolling restart to lead ahead Gotz, Lawson and Philip Ellis.
The quartet all made an early move for the pits to make their mandatory stops, with van der Linde retaining the net lead.
The South African retook the overall lead in the closing stages once team-mate Rockenfeller pitted and cruised home to take the spoils by just under six seconds.
Albon set a blistering pace after making his pitstop early on to move into the podium contention and, after passing Ellis for a net third, muscled his way past Goetz. Despite eating into van ver Linde’s lead late on, Albon had to settle for runner-up spot.
Having lost out to Ellis earlier in the race, Lawson moved back past the Winward Mercedes driver in the latter stages before wrestling third from Goetz exiting the hairpin.
But a late charge of fresh tyres helped Rockenfeller move ahead of Lawson a few corners from home after a feisty battle, having started 17th.
Lawson finished fourth ahead of Goetz, who moved to joint-third in the points with Marco Wittmann, who retired late on with damage sustained in a lap one collision, having qualified a lowly 13th in his BMW.
Lamborghini driver Esteban Muth and Juncadella took sixth and seventh, having both made late overtakes on Ellis, who slipped to eighth.
Vincent Abril was ninth for HRT Mercedes ahead of Rowe BMW’s Timo Glock.
Race result (35 laps)
1 Kelvin van der Linde Audi
2 Alexander Albon Ferrari +5.886s
3 Mike Rockenfeller Audi +15.601s
4 Liam Lawson Ferrari +17.233s
5 Maximilian Götz Mercedes +17.940s
6 Esteban Muth Lamborghini +18.779s
7 Daniel Juncadella Mercedes +19.966s
8 Philip Ellis Mercedes +21.119s
9 Vincent Abril Mercedes +28.817s
10 Timo Glock BMW +36.432s
11 Marvin Dienst Mercedes +39.674s
12 Sophia Flörsch Audi +40.662s
13 Esmee Hawkey Lamborghini +44.633s
14 Hubert Haupt Mercedes +46.641s
15 Lucas di Grassi Audi +1m02.029s
16 Dev Gore Audi +1m03.246s
DNF Nico Müller Audi
DNF Sheldon van der Linde BMW
DNF Marco Wittmann BMW
DNF Lucas Auer Mercedes
DNF Arjun Maini Mercedes
Featured image credit: @abtmotorsport official twitter