Paul di Resta threw down the gauntlet for the final weekend of the 2008 DTM season, setting the fastest time of the day in the closing moments of the second practice session at the Hockenheimring in his Mercedes C-class.
di Resta is two points adrift of his rival and championship leader Timo Scheider, who drives for the archrival Audi team, and needs to take a victory in Sunday's race to guarantee a victory in the 2008 championship fight.
Prior to the finale, di Resta spoke about his chances to take the title: "One win and three second positions out of the previous four races and nine points more than the overall leader are a great motivation for this season's finale at Hockenheim. I look forward to the many enthusiastic Mercedes-Benz employees and fans who will be sitting on the grandstand and I will give it my all to fulfill their hopes. The successes of the last races should help me."
It had looked like an Audi romp in today's tests, as the Ingolstadt marque had set the six fastest times in the first practice, led by Martin Tomczyk and Scheider, and were locked into the top four as the clock was running out in the second session.
However, di Resta, who had slightly delayed his final run, drove a stoking lap to eclipse Tomczyk's time in the second session by 0.312 seconds and claim the overnight bragging rights. Mattias Ekstrom was third, also for Audi, 0.070 seconds behind Tomczyk, and Scheider fourth, a further 0.017 seconds adrift.
Notably Bernd Schneider was eighth, the Mercedes-Benz ace setting a time just a second slower than di Resta in his final race weekend. Schneider, a veteran of a 13 DTM seasons, and with five DTM titles under his belt, announced his retirement from racing on Tuesday. In addition to his DTM career, he drove 34 Grands Prix for Zakspeed and Arrows between 1988 and 1990, and won the FIA GT championship, also for Mercedes, in 1997.
Schneider is expected to stay involved in the Mercedes racing efforts even after his retirement from racing, having been associated with the Stuttgart marque since his 1992 DTM debut.
"I have now been active as a racing driver for a total of more than 30 years, and my aim has always been to continue racing for as long as I enjoy the sport and I am still able to remain competitive," stated Schneider. "The time to leave has now come, and it gives rise to conflicting emotions. On the one hand I am sorry to be saying 'Good Bye' to the many friends I have made in motor sports, and above all in the AMG, HWA and Mercedes-Benz teams over the last 17 years.
"On the other hand I am looking forward to facing my exciting new challenges. I see my decision to work for AMG following my career as an active racing driver as absolutely logical. I was able to celebrate most of my victories, and also the most satisfying ones, in the AMG Mercedes team, and now I am looking forward to the new challenge as an instructor, test driver and brand ambassador for Mercedes-AMG," he added.