It’s been a challenging last couple of months for the BMW teams competing in the DTM championship, but they bounced back with a strong one-two finish at the Red Bull Ring in Austria last weekend.
After a disappointing weekend at the Nürburgring in early August, where the best BMW result of two races was a fifth place in race one, the series headed to the Lausitzring in mid-August. BMW put three cars into the top ten in race one there, with Sheldon van der Linde placing highest in fifth. In race two, Marco Wittmann was the only BMW to finish in the top ten with a tenth-place finish.
Things didn’t go much better for the BMW drivers in the pair of races at the Sachsenring on September 8th-10th. Sheldon van der Linde was once again the best of the BMW finishers in race one, but could only manage sixth, while René Rast also finished in the top ten in eighth. In race two, Rast was the top BMW, but placed eighth again.
It initially didn’t look like the BMWs would be much better at the Red Bull Ring last weekend. In a damp qualifying for the first race, Rast was the fastest M4 GT4 in seventh, but his time was only around two-tenths off the pole time of Laurin Heinrich’s Porsche. Amazingly, the top-eleven cars were within a half-second of each other. Rast moved up three spots in the race to finish in fourth, while Marco Wittmann finished in eighth.
In qualifying for race two, the BMWs proved to be the fastest cars on the dry track, with Rast taking the pole with a 1:27.671 in his #33 M4 GT3, followed in second by Sheldon van der Linde with a 1:27.782 lap in the #1 M4 GT3. Marco Wittmann also had a strong qualifying in fifth with a 1:27.948. Rast and van der Linde would go on to finish the race in one-two as they started, with Marco Wittmann moving up one spot to fourth.
The pole and win in race two were memorable for René Rast. With the pole, he became the all-time leader in DTM pole positions with 26 (most of them with Audi), breaking the record of legendary Mercedes driver Bernd Schneider. The win was also his first as a BMW works driver. “My first win with BMW M Motorsport feels very special,” said Rast after the race. “The team did a superb job, the pit stop was excellent, and the guys simply deserved it today.”
Heading into the season finale in October at Hockenheim, Porsche driver Thomas Preining is leading the driver points with a narrow margin over Lamborghini driver Mirko Bortolotti, while van der Linde and Rast are in fourth and fifth place. The Schubert Motorsport team has dropped to fourth place in the team championship, and BMW is fourth in the manufacturers championship behind Porsche, Lamborghini, and Mercedes —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy ADAC/Gruppe C Photography]