I’m sat here trying to rack my brains as to the last time I saw as complete a performance over the course of a DTM weekend as Rene Rast delivered at the Nurburgring. In a weekend where both championship contenders suffered trouble and mishaps, defending champion and Audi sensation Rene Rast took both pole positions, both race wins and surged to third in the championship standings. I’ve examined the action from this weekend at the Nurburgring, and given my assessment of some of the biggest winners and losers in my DTM weekend wrap.
Rene Fast! A Star In A Tough Season For Audi
Rene Rast’s championship defence and late-season surge is all the more impressive given Audi’s struggles in 2018. Whilst the rest his Audi teammates occupy positions between 13th and 18th in the championship table, Rast now sits in 3rd, 11 points ahead of Edoardo Mortara in 4th. In a scintillating run of form which started in race two at Zandvoort back in July, Rast has won three out of the last seven races and finished on the podium a further two times. In fact, a result card which reads 1st, 4th, 3rd, DNF, 3rd, 1st, 1st since the Netherlands isn’t bettered by anyone, and with it, Rast has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the championship standings.
Although too far back to be counted as a real serious player in this year’s title fight, Rast’s form, coupled with steady progress from Audi has thrown him firmly into the battle for 3rd at the end of the season. With just four races left and Mortara and Wittmann in close pursuit, we’re in for a three-brand fight for 3rd, with Mercedes desperate for a top-three lockout, BMW keen to salvage something which looked to be such a promising season, and Audi, who despite all the odds could rescue a disastrous year. In just his second full DTM season, Rast has already proved himself to be among the series’ finest operators. If it wasn’t for Paffett’s fastest lap in race two, Rast would have completed a full clean sweep of the Nurburgring weekend. In a series as competitive as the DTM, such a performance will long be remembered.
Trouble For Both Championship Contenders
Paffett’s season was going perfectly up until Misano where it all began to unwind, and although he leaves the Nurburgring with a 3rd and a 5th and his championship lead restored, the two-point gap he has to teammate Paul di Resta should, in fact, be greater. Paffett was closest to Rast all weekend long in terms of outright pace, but a slow pit stop in Sunday’s race dropped him from contention. Despite a strong recovery drive and fastest lap on his way back to 5th place, it was a sense of what could have been for Paffett, and he heads to the Red Bull Ring in a real championship fight.
Mercedes teammate and championship rival Paul di Resta also experienced an up and down weekend. Contact with Joel Eriksson in Saturday’s race would see the Scot finish last in 18th place, but a fine recovery to 2nd on Sunday ensured he closed the gap once again to Paffett, and it’s all to play for heading into the final two rounds of the season. Its just too close to call between the two, but with both being previous champions I think we’re in for a brilliant display of driving ability in the final four races of the season.
Shoots Of Recovery For BMW
Although BMW won with Joel Eriksson taking victory via a strategic masterclass in Misano, the Nurburgring was a much more convincing weekend for BMW. After starting the season as Mercedes’ closest challengers, BMW fell away over the mid part of the season, before beginning to show their return to form this weekend. Bruno Spengler scored a 2nd on Saturday before Marco Wittmann finished in 3rd in Sunday’s race, and Eng’s and Eriksson’s finishes of 16th and 12th respectively on Saturday would be BMW’s only finishes outside the top ten all weekend long.
With Wittmann and Glock sitting 5th and 6th in the championship table, and BMW a lonely second in the manufacturer’s standings there is a little reason for the team not to throw everything at securing further race victories before the end of the season. As they head to the Red Bull Ring and Hockenheim, both circuits where they have been strong in the past we may see one more victory before the season is out.
Green’s Nightmare Season Continues
Jamie Green has long been one of the DTM’s fastest and most consistent operators, something reflected in his final placings of 3rd, 11th, 10th, 2nd, 3rd and 3rd since 2012. However, it’s fair to say that 2018 hasn’t quite been the season one of the DTM’s fastest drivers who hasn’t yet won a title had hoped for. On a weekend where all of his Audi stablemates finished in the top ten at least once, Green finished 14th and 15th and remains rooted to the bottom of the championship table with 17 points. Fellow Audi driver Nico Muller is the driver above him in 17th, 26 points ahead.
I do think Green’s 2018 is a one-off, perhaps exaggerated by Audi being hit the hardest by the regulation changes which took place during the winter, but the gap in fortunes between the likes of Rene Rast, who Green was fighting with for the title last season and the Briton himself is vast, and slightly worrying. It remains to be seen whether Green can bounce back in 2019. Looking back at the level he performed at so consistently from 2012 – 2017 I believe he can. The alternative is a DTM career trajectory similar to likes of Martin Tomczyk who after winning the title in a fantastic 2011 season went on to finish 8th, 19th, 6th, 19th, and 21st before retiring at the end of 2016.
Standout Driver This Weekend – Rene Rast
Standout Moment – Rene’s Rast’s double lights to flat victories and Joel Eriksson colliding with Paul di Resta in race one
What were your highlights from the Nurburgring weekend? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!