DTM Finale – Sheldon with a shot at a title
Every time I think the vd Linde brother's fairy tale story is developing perfectly, I get reminders that they're just getting started. This weekend is yet another one of those moments as Sheldon vd Linde heads into the last two rounds of the DTM championship at the Hockenheim Ring.
He's currently leading the battle with 130 points over his nearest rivals, Lucas Auer (119 points), Rene Rast (118 points), Thomas Preining (116 points) and Mirko Bortolotti (114), spread between five manufacturers, BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lamborghini and Porsche.
With the uber-close racing and points spread a win can have, it's anyone's for the taking, so we're not counting our chickens before they hatch. So close is that battle that, for the first time in history, there's a mathematical chance that anyone in the top ten can become champion — a dream scenario for DTM boss Gerhard Berger.
With nine other top-ranked drivers gunning for the number one spot, it's going to be the toughest weekend for Sheldon. Let's put our trust in the racing gods that they'll smile down on Sheldon, who finds himself in a similar place to that his brother Kelvin did one year ago — going up against Liam Lawson in that exhilarating closing round that got all the tongues wagging. Who can forget that?
No one can dispute that DTM has delivered the close racing we wanted in its new GT guise. That conversation has been put to bed, but to look after our anxiety, we'd have wished that there was more of a lead for Sheldon, but like the 'ol adage goes, "Don't pray for it. Play for it." That's precisely what Sheldon has been doing all season long. He firmly rocked up every weekend, got the gloves off and boxed his way to the finish line each race.
It's no straightforward task, going up against some of the best tin-top race car drivers the world has seen. Something the nation can be incredibly proud of and proof (not that we needed more of it) that Mzansi can produce the best in the business. It must be something in our water, but certainly can't be in our electricity 'cause there's none.
It's been a season of magic for Sheldon and his Schubert BMW M4 GT3. Who can forget that double victory at Lausitzring, the 1-2 finish with brother Kelvin at the Nürburgring or that epic battle with Nick Cassidy at Spa, finishing 0.6 seconds behind the Australian? Some of the highlights, but it's been the consistent finishing that's set him aside, and consistency in racing is a key factor to winning a championship. Sheldon had done that, proving that he's had the pace in qualifying throughout the year and, when race day rolled around, kept the fight alive, showing the tenacity that a champion needs to deliver. It's little surprise that we find ourselves here. I know his dad, ex-touring car driver Shaun, will be there at the track and be just as proud as we are.
"The current constellation prior to the DTM finale is incredible. We have five hot title favourites from five different manufacturers and even ten drivers in total who, mathematically, can still become DTM champion – something never seen in DTM before," said DTM boss, Gerhard Berger.
Suppose Sheldon can have his dream finish this weekend. In that case, we'll see this as the first time a South African has ever won a DTM championship but regardless of that, to find ourselves in that position of a chance with two rounds left in the championship is enough in our eyes to be proud. Let's pause and think about the fact that he's only 23 years old. Where were you at 23? The action kicks off tomorrow at 12:05 for practice, and race one will be this Saturday at 13:15 (qualifying is at 10:00). Get your popcorn ready.
Words: Brent vd Schyff