Gary Paffett is the 2018 DTM champion. Third place in Mercedes-AMG’s last DTM race was enough for the Brit to secure his second title win after 2005. “That is simply unbelievable,” Paffett shouted on the radio after crossing the finish line and thanked his team. “You have done a great job, we have deserved to win the title.” Victory in the final race of the season went to René Rast, who thus continued his winning streak in the 20th and final race of the season and scored his sixth consecutive victory. A new record. In the final DTM drivers’ standings, Rast eventually missed out on the title by merely four points. Behind Rast, BMW’s Marco Wittmann finished in second place. Winning the drivers’ title completes the triple for Mercedes-AMG, the Stuttgart-based brand already having secured the manufacturers’ and teams’ titles with Mercedes-AMG Motorsport PETRONAS prior to the final race.
DTM doyen Gary Paffett has secured his second major title, exactly 4,739 days after he had been able to celebrate as the DTM champion at Hockenheim as well. Since his debut in 2003, the eldest DTM driver in the field, aged 37, has competed in 185 DTM races. And his track record is considerable: 23 wins, 48 podium finishes and 17 pole positions are top achievements. “We have been working hard for 13 years to be back on the top step,” the new DTM champion said. “This is the best day of my life. Like a fairy tale. At the end, I was counting down the laps, the final laps in the car that I love so much.”
Thanks to Mercedes-AMG
“Congratulations to Gary Paffett and to Mercedes,” Gerhard Berger, chairman of the DTM organisation ITR, said. “They have done a good job and they made it at the end. At this time, I would express my sincere thanks to Mercedes. Mercedes has done very much for the series: for 30 years, they were something like the backbone of the DTM and have been a part of the series in highs and lows. Mercedes has always been a hard and fair competitor and a good partner off the track. I feel sad to see them go, but perhaps, we will meet again in the future. I am certain that they are leaving with a tear in their eyes.”
“Congratulations also to Audi and René Rast, who have recovered extremely in the last races,” Berger added. “It was a tough battle between Audi and Mercedes, between René, Gary and Paul Di Resta. In the last race, BMW was strong again, too, and we had the three brands on the podium.”
Berger’s summary about the season was very positive. “I am looking back upon a great season. Mercedes leaving the series regularly came up as a topic, but with the luxury sports car brand Aston Martin, there are great new perspectives for the future of the series. The most important thing: we have delivered a super product for the fans this season. Most of the races were really thrilling and like last year, the champion was unknown until the final race.”
Paffett a merited champion
“Eventually, Gary kept his nerves in control and is a merited champion,” Berger continued. “That he is leaving the DTM is sad, but everybody is making mistakes sometimes. No, jokes aside: I wish him good luck for his new challenge. René deserves great respect, he is one of the drivers in this field who is impressing me most. He is a very clever guy. First and foremost, he is not only talented, he is also hardworking and that leads to the fact that he simply is always up there at the front.”
“Here at Hockenheim, we have staged a great show for the fans,” René Rast summed up the weekend that the Audi driver had put his mark on to a great extent. “Of course, I am a bit disappointed for not being on the top step in spite of six wins in a row. We have been working hard for this success. I am enjoying the DTM very much and I am really looking forward to next year.”
Slightly overshadowed by the main actors, other drivers showed great performances in the DTM finale, too: Marco Wittmann, who had started from pole position, finished second and Robin Frijns took the chequered flag in fifth place behind Nico Müller. The Dutchman showed great progress from last place on the grid and scored ten points as a reward.
2019 DTM calendar already finalised
The 2019 DTM calendar includes nine race weekends. As usual, the season gets underway at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg (3–5 May, 2019), also the venue of the season finale (4–6 October, 2019). The circuits of the three further race weekends in Germany, the Norisring, the Lausitzring and the Nürburgring, are also part of the regular fixtures on the DTM calendar. Moreover, the DTM is racing four times in other European countries. While the tracks at Misano (Italy) and Brands Hatch (United Kingdom) were already part of the schedule of the touring car series in 2018, the legendary TT Circuit at Assen in The Netherlands is a new circuit that is featuring on the calendar for the first time. Moreover, the DTM will be making its comeback at Circuit Zolder (Belgium), the track where the DTM had its inaugural race on 11 March, 1984, back then still referred to as ‘Deutsche Produktionswagen-Meisterschaft’.
Press release DTM, picture Ludovic Carnal/Sport-Auto.ch