Today was the final race of what has been a thrilling season of Formula V8 3.5, where despite not having the biggest of fields, the quality of overall racing has been a joy to behold. Louis Deletraz started with a six point lead, and also too the pole for the final race. His title rival Tom Dillmann could only qualify seventh, and was left with much work to do.
There was added tension at the beginning, as Egor Orudzhev stalled on the grid, with the addition of another formation lap. For Orudzhev, it has been another disappointment in a mixed season, with a number of retirements, yet five victories.
Off the line, Deletraz dropped to fourth, as Matevos Isaakyan had a lightning start to steal the lead. Dillmann jumped up to fifth to pile the pressure on his competitor. Another good starter was Pietro Fittipaldi, who got up to third ahead of team mate Deletraz.
Further down the field, Aurelien Panis came to blows with Alfonso Celis at turn one. Celis managed to resume at the back, although Panis damaged his front wing. Elsewhere, Isaakyan and Rou Nissany pulled away at the front, with the title battlers being glued to each other in fourth and fifth. Deletraz seemed to be struggling early on with Dillmann looking very comfortable.
As soon as the pit window opened, Dillmann dived in, looking for the undercut. The leaders stayed out, with Nissany looking very quick, while Louis Deletraz had a sluggish pit stop the lap after, and Dillmann managed to swoop ahead, a huge moment in the championship. For Dillmann now the chase was on to gain enough positions to make up the six point deficit.
After the pit stops for the title contenders, Dillmann set a hot pace, jumping Fittipaldi, and then when Isaakyan was delayed by a wheel gun issue, got ahead of Isaakyan. Deletraz also managed to jump Isaakyan, and then found himself behind his team mate Fittipaldi.
Nissany was last of the leaders to pit, and got jumped by Dillmann, who from seventh place on the grid found himself in a position to win the championship. Going into the last 15 minutes of the season, Deletraz had to pass two cars to win the championship.
Unfortunately for Deletraz, the pace was not there, and his team mate was actually pulling away from him. Dillmann found himself keeping a consistent pace and lead of around 2.5 seconds from Nissany.
Elsewhere, Matthieu Vaxiviere retired, ending a miserable weekend for him. Nissany started to pick up the pace, taking significant time out of Dillmann, with the question being whether Dillmann had the tyres to maintain the lead, having been the first man to pit.
The closing stages were tense, with the knowledge that one overtake from Nissany would swing the title back to Deletraz. Nissany gave it everything, but a small error in the final stages cost him enough time to lose his gains.
But Dillmann remained calm to pick up the win and the championship. A great driver and my pick for the title, he fought a great battle with Deletraz, who is undoubtedly a star of the future. Dillmann though had his day today and thoroughly deserves the win.