Rene Rast reclaimed the DTM crown in stellar fashion at the Nürburgring this weekend, as rivals Nico Müller and Marco Wittmann stumbled.
This year’s DTM was always going to go one of two ways – it could have been an ultra-close-knit three-way fight for the crown, or it would turn in a moment, gifting the title to Rene Rast with not much fanfare.
Sadly, it was the latter.
That the crowning of Rast came on a difficult weekend for Müller and Wittmann merely emphasised the matter somewhat. At the Nürburgring, Rast was – for the most part – imperious, as he maximised his resources, while others floundered.
And he does seem so unflappable. When events have not gone Rast’s way, his demeanour tends to be calm, but still with a serious glint. In the open – at least – there is rarely drama, toys are not thrown, and petulance is absent.
One could argue that Assen was Rast’s weakest round of the season, with the champion taking a 3rd and 5th place finishes, despite starting on pole and the front row in the weekend’s two races. Whereas he did retire from races at the Hockenheimring, Zolder and Lausitzring, he also won races on each of those weekends and took several points from qualifying as well.
Yet tyre struggles at Assen hampered Rast somewhat, dropping him down the order relative to his usual finishing positions. When a driver still manages to score a podium on what might be considered his weakest weekend of the season, that is the form of a champion.
It has often been said that tight championships like DTM are decided by which driver makes the most of the bad weekends. One could also look to Pascal Wehrlein’s DTM title in 2015 and come to the same conclusion.
But let’s not underestimate Rast. He is, after all, also a multiple Porsche Carrera Super Cup and Carrera Cup Germany champion and an ADAC GT champion, as well as an overall winner of the Spa 24 Hours and the Nürburgring 24 Hours and a class winner at Le Mans and the Daytona 24 Hours.
Even when Audi’s struggled early on in 2018, Rast emerged as the leading man for the four rings and even then, still only just missed out on the title to the departing Gary Paffett, despite Rast ending the season with six consecutive wins.
Amidst all this, Müller, too, has stepped up. The Swiss racer has taken the consistency he began to show in 2018 and stepped it up as Audi’s RS5 DTM became the series’ primary performer. Such has been the upturn in performance, Müller’s went from achieving a few 10th place finishes, to scoring more significant points and podiums by year end.
This year, he finally began to turn those performances into victories, but it still wasn’t quite enough and for all his improvements, Müller will need to take yet another step next year if he wants to challenge Rast.
If nothing else, Müller must be disappointed that on the weekend Rast took the title, he did not feature or finish as strongly as he had at earlier rounds, leading to something of a damp squid conclusion.
For BMW’s Wittmann, realistically, the championship had begun to slip after the second race at Brands (he finished 10th) but was dented further by a 4th and a 6th at Lausitzring, while the leading pair of Audi’s won a race each.
It put the German in a position where he would have had to blitz race wins across the final few rounds, but that has never really been Wittmann’s style – he has often been a consistent runner, taking big points and podiums wherever possible. The kind of driver who was often just there at the end of each race.
On the appearance of 2019, “just there” may not be enough for BMW in 2020.