Timo Scheider came to Mugello at the head of the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) championship standings, and started today's race from the pole position, but Audi's touring car ace was just a little too anxious to get to the chequered flag first. As it happened, Scheider jumped the start, incurring a drive-through penalty for his infraction, and opening the door to the Mercedes-Benz squadron.
That was all the opening that Jamie Green needed. The young Briton had taken the start from the front row, alongside Scheider, and beat the Audi pilot into the first turn. And after he saw Scheider's Audi pull into pit lane for the drive-through penalty, he never looked back. Green took the victory by a margin of over three seconds over his Scottish teammate, Paul di Resta.
"The start was the key for my win today," Green explained. "The car was perfect and with the pit stops and the strategy our team didn't put a foot wrong. I am happy with this victory, especially after the start of the season that has been particularly difficult for all of us."
Di Resta, who made a lightning start from fifth on the gird to challenge Scheider for second into the first corner, stayed in Green's tow throughout the race, with the team executing quick and clean pit stops.
"At the start I saw a chance to move up and I did it. Yesterday in qualifying I made a few mistakes, but today everything went well and I am happy about my second place," said di Resta. "I thank my team for a great car and perfect pit stops."
Audi's Le Mans legend, Tom Kristensen challenged di Resta throughout much of the race, but fell back in late laps to finish 2.1 seconds adrift of di Resta's Mercedes.
"The start was okay," Kristensen recounted. "We went into the (first few) corners side-by-side, and I was in third position. Up to the first pit stop, I was quicker than Paul (di Resta). My pit stop was good, but so was Paul's. After leaving the pit lane I kept trailing him closely. Then, unfortunately, we caught a white Mercedes, which let di Resta pass but slowed me for a whole lap. I lost a little more than four seconds in the process. On this circuit that means the race is over."
Behind Kristensen, Bernd Schneider had a lonely race in the third-ranked Mercedes, finishing some four seconds behind Kristensen and six seconds in front of Oliver Jarvis in the fastest of the 2007-spec Audis.
And Scheider? The drive-through penalty dropped him all the way to the back of the field, and the twisty 14-turn circuit doesn't offer many passing opportunities, especially for evenly-matched cars such as those in a DTM race. Scheider managed to work his way to mid-field, but crossed the line in 10th place and out of championship points.
"The race itself was great but my start was the reason for the flop," Scheider recounted the start. "I probably didn't warm up my brakes enough. Although the parking brake was closed there was a jolt. So the pressure wasn't high enough, and when preloading it the car moved. I'm really sorry about that -- that was my mistake."
In spite of the poor result, Scheider was still very much upbeat. "My thanks go to the boys - the car was sensational. The positive part about it is that we're still leading the standings."
Scheider is still in the lead with 18 points, thanks to his victory and second place in the first two events. It could have been otherwise, but Bruno Spengler, the leading Mercedes pilot coming into Mugello, damaged his car in a first-lap altercation with the Audis of Mike Rockenfeller and Martin Tomczyk, and ended up in ninth, also out of the points.
However, Scheider's margin is now much reduced, with di Resta breathing down his neck, only one point behind. The two are followed by five drivers within a span of four points, with Spengler, in 7th place, only seven points behind Scheider. Audi still leads the teams' championship chase, with Team Abt and team Abt Sportsline heading the standings by a six-point margin over the leading Mercedes-Benz team.
The DTM circus now moves to Eurospeeedway Lausitz, with Audi looking to regain its early-season form. The Mercedes-Benz weight advantage drops by 10 kg as a result of today's victory, and the fight at Lausitz is bound to be close once again.