Factory Lamborghini driver Bortolotti led the first part of the race with ease from pole position, putting several seconds between himself and the chase group led by Winward Mercedes of Auer.
But the race was turned upside down on lap 19 when fellow Bortolotti Grasser Racing teammate Rolf Ineichen stopped on the track at Turn 1 shortly after he stopped, and pulled out the safety car.
After a short intervention period, Bortolotti’s Lamborghini was slow to accelerate when the red lights went out and slid back into the standings, allowing Auer to pass and take the lead.
From there, the Austrian was untouchable in front, taking his eighth DTM victory by just over a second.
HRT Mercedes driver Luca Stolz made quick gains after an early lap 8 stop, finishing second strong in his first DTM race as a full timer.
Bortolotti recovered from the failed safety car restart to finish last on the podium, and overtaking Maro Engel’s GruppeM Mercedes put Maro Engel back into Turn 1 on the last lap of the race.
Engel was later hit with a five-second penalty for a stop-break, and dropped to 10th in the final standings.
This title contender Kelvin van der Linde moved up last year to fourth in the Abt Sportsline Audi, South Africa which is recovering from a poor qualifying that left him 17th on the grid in a field of 29 cars.
Porsche’s drivers also showed an improvement in racing pace after struggling for speed in qualifying, with Dennis Olsen finishing fifth on the SSR Performance Team in the Stuttgart-based brand’s debut in the DTM, three places ahead of teammate Laurens Vanthoor.
Ricardo Feller, Abt Audi driver, was one of the few drivers to stop at the first opportunity on lap six, allowing the GT Masters champ to take sixth on his DTM debut.
Schubert Motorsport’s Sheldon van der Linde drove the new BMW M4 to a solid seventh, ahead of the Vanthoor, while teammate Philip Eng jumped from 24th on the grid to take ninth in the DTM comeback.
Last place in points push went to Engel after a five-second penalty, while defending champion Maximilian Gotze (Wynward Mercedes) was only able to finish 11th early in his title defense.
Factory Aston Martin (T1 Motorsport Lamborghini) driver Nicky Thiem ran inside the top five for most of the race, but got stuck in the scrimmage at the start of the second half, dropping to a disappointing 12th in the final standings.
The chaos at the start of the second half also affected Red Bull player Felipe Fraga and three-time champion Rene Rast (Abt Audi), both of whom withdrew from the race on the spot with their cars damaged. Fraga was running seventh and was hoping to take advantage of the newer tyres, having made a mandatory stop before a lap of the safety car.
Nico Muller (Team Rosberg) and Marco Wittmann (Wakenhurst BMW) were other notable retirees from the race, both of whom were heading to their garage early on due to unrelated issues.
In his first DTM debut as a replacement for Nick Cassidy, nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb ranked 16th in his AlphaTauri-sponsored Ferrari.
He finished the season less than a second behind first-tier player Thomas Grenier, who was third behind Bortolotti and Auer before the start of the second half only to top up points later.
Portimao DTM – Results of the first race:
|4||3||Kvan der Linde||Audi||3.053|
|7||31||S.van der Linde||BMW||4.768|
|26||My name is Hawk||Lamborghini||the retirement|
|33||Rene Rast||Audi||the retirement|
|74||Felipe Fraga||Ferrari||the retirement|
|19||Rolf’s Inspiration||Lamborghini||the retirement|
|11||Marco Whitman||BMW||the retirement|
|12||Dave Gor||Audi||the retirement|
|51||Nico Muller||Audi||the retirement|