Mercedes Formula 1 junior driver Pascal Wehrlein took a big step towards winning the 2015 DTM championship at the Nürburgring on Sunday by extending his series lead to 37 points ahead of next month’s finale at Hockenheim.
Wehrlein has tested for Mercedes and Force India in F1 over the past 12 months, and was known to have held talks with the latter about a possible drive in 2016.
At the age of 20, Wehrlein is now on the cusp of winning one of Europe’s premier touring car series after finishing third and fifth in this weekend’s races at the Nürburgring.
The German driver felt aggrieved after being forced off the track by Maxime Martin in Saturday’s race, but was more upbeat at the end of the weekend as his rivals lost more ground in the title race.
Wehrlein added an additional ten points to his championship lead over the weekend, which now stands at 37 points with just 50 remaining at next month’s two-race finale at Hockenheim.
With Mercedes close to striking an engine deal with Manor for 2016, it has been mooted that Wehrlein could get a drive with the team as part of the deal.
However, team boss Toto Wolff remained wary when discussing the German’s future, saying that he wanted to see how he fared in DTM before making any firm decisions.
“We have Pascal, who is with us, whose main focus is DTM, and I don’t want to take him away from that focus,” Wolff said in Suzuka this weekend.
“He has done a great job for us and he is a very exciting young driver, but I’d rather like to see how DTM pans out.”
The 2015 DTM season comes to a close at Hockenheim on October 18, which will be Wehrlein’s 21st birthday. However, unless nearest rival Edoardo Mortara outscores him by 12 points the day before, he will be crowned champion at the age of 20 with one race to spare.
Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves made it three consecutive victories in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, winning Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to close in on the points lead in the DPi class.
After Castroneves started on the pole position in No. 7 Acura, Taylor took the checkered flag by 0.607 seconds ahead of Felipe Nasr’s No. 31 Cadillac.
“I’m just proud,” Taylor told NBC Sports reporter Dillon Welch. “Helio did an amazing job at the start, kept his cool. It’s not easy starting on the outside, but he settled in, picked people off and put us in a position to jump the 31 on a stop.
“Then I felt like we were the strongest car on track when we had new tires. It was a real team effort.”
Helio Castroneves picked up Ricky Taylor and carried him several yards down the pit lane in celebration.
“Last year, I had a little issue and lost my cool at the start of the race, and we threw the race away, so this time, if something happens, I know we’re going to come back, and here we are in victory circle.”
With three races remaining this season for the premier class, Castroneves and Taylor have moved to third in the standings, five points behind Renger van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe, who finished third in the No. 10 Cadillac at Mid-Ohio.
Ranked three points behind in second is Pipo Derani, who is Nasr’s teammate.
The championship race could have been tighter as Acura Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya passed van der Zande for third after the cars banged together a few times with 10 minutes remaining.
But Montoya spun off course a few minutes later in Turn 1 and handed a podium finish back to the Wayne Taylor Racing car.
“Bashy, bashy right there,” van der Zande said. “Old school NASCAR racing, I guess. I’m not so used to that. He was very aggressive but also very very fast. It was a fantastic race for us.”
The final three races will be held at Road Atlanta, Laguna Seca and Sebring.
“It was a great third place with a lot of pressure from Montoya and Mazda and everyone really,” Briscoe said. “We’ll take the points and keep pushing. It’s so close. Can’t think too far ahead, but we’d love to get another win or two to finish out the season. There’s some really big races coming up, and this team tends to excel in the long races, so we’re looking forward to it.”
🏁 on the Acura Sports Car Challenge at @Mid_Ohio. Retweet to congratulate the winners!
–Corvette Racing scored its first victory at the track in eight years as the No. 3 Corvette C8.R of Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia won from the pole position. Teammates Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner finished second in a class that featured only four cars because of the pullout of Porsche.
It was the fourth victory this season for the No. 3 and the fifth for Corvette, which also is 1-2 in the points standings with the No. 3 ahead by 17 points.
“It was a perfect weekend for our Corvette,” Taylor told NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman. “The car rolled off the truck really well. This was one of the tracks where we never tested at, so the preparation by the team really set us up well. … We’ve been so strong on pace and reliability.”
Said Garcia: “It’s a shame that Porsche is not here as we want them back for sure. It was a brilliant job by everyone. Jordan did a fantastic job all day long, getting on pole and then getting a solid lead even if there were a ton of yellows. The C8.R worked perfectly again today.”
–The No. 14 Lexus of AIM Vasser Sullivan won in the GTD class, moving drivers Aaron Telitz and Jack Hawksworth to the points lead. With four races remaining, Telitz trails the No. 86 Acura by two points, and Hawksworth is four points behind.