Bernd Schneider wins thrilling DTM finale in front of record crowd
Spectators on the sold-out stands at the DTM finale witnessed a treat at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg. The race was packed with duels and innumerable awe-inspiring overtaking. Bernd Schneider won the 10th and final championship race of the 2004 season in his "living room". It was the 38th triumph for the four-time champion in the DTM and ITC - and the first this season.
Martin Tomczyk, who started in pole position, crossed the finish line in second in his Audi A4 DTM, 1.6 seconds behind. Briton Gary Paffett wrapped up the runner-up title 2004 with a third place as his Mercedes team mate and rival in the vice-champion's title, Christijan Albers, only came seventh. New champion Mattias Ekström, who already secured the title in Brno, finished the race in sixth in his Audi A4 DTM.
The finale on the Hockenheimring was anything but a happy affair for the Opel team. Only two Opel drivers finished the race with Timo Scheider in ninth and Heinz-Harald Frentzen in 12th. All the other drivers were forced to abandon their cars early due to accidents or technical problems.
The constructors' championship and team ranking was also decided on Sunday. Audi won by four points ahead of Mercedes-Benz with a total 168 points in the constructors' standings. Opel placed third. In the team standings, Audi Sport Team Abt (113 points) triumphed ahead of Vodafone/DaimlerChrysler Bank AMG-Mercedes (86 points) and C-class AMG-Mercedes (76 points).
The 133,000 spectators over the race weekend represent a new record in the DTM - a fine end to a record season with a total 769,000 spectators coming to 10 races.
Bernd Schneider (1st place, Vodafone AMG-Mercedes):
"I dedicate this victory to Professor Hubbert who has supported and furthered me all these years. I wanted to win for him and that's what I managed. That's the very best for me. The atmosphere here was fantastic. I even heard the fans on every lap despite the helmet. The race was a lot of fun and the challenges were always fair. I want to reclaim the title next year."
Martin Tomczyk (2nd place, Audi Sport Team Abt):
"I think the race was perfect, always fair and one of the best I've ever driven in. We offered the spectators a brilliant weekend, which one can probably only experience in the DTM. It was just incredible standing on the podium and looking out at the scene before me. We won all three titles for Audi and we're mighty proud of that."
Gary Paffett (3rd place, C-class AMG-Mercedes):
"It was a thrilling race which was great fun. After a good start I was unfortunately on the wrong line next to Jean Alesi in the first corner and fell back into fifth place. I had some brilliant duels with Jean and Christijan Albers. I wanted to attack the front drivers but they were too fast."
Timo Scheider (9th place, OPC Team Holzer):
"So often this year I had an absolutely competitive racing car in the race, but this weekend I didn't manage to get the perfect set-up for my car. The duel with Christian Abt was fun. I really did have my hands full, but he eventually managed to overtake me somehow. It was tough, but fair."
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich Audi Motorsport Director:
"Today we delivered touring car sports of the highest calibre. It was incredibly thrilling and impressive to drive amid such a backdrop. We're proud to participate in this championship as a manufacturer and I'm of course very pleased with this result."
"The championship was extremely close and extremely thrilling. We're proud to have won all three championship titles in the first year of our return: the championship title for Mattias Ekström, the team classification for the the Abt Team and the constructor's title for our make."
Norbert Haug Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director:
"I'm very pleased that Bernd won the final race. He really deserved it. The whole team worked well and we therefore clinched our second-best result of the season. We entertained the spectators very well as the winner wasn't sure until the last corner, and things were also pretty busy in the field of pursuers. I've never seen so many laughing spectators as today."
"The DTM has developed fantastically well, not only on the track but also off it. The races took place at a high and fair level. In the DTM the spectator is king and in this regard we can be very proud of this series."
Volker Strycek Opel Sport Director:
"It was an exceptionally unfortunate race for our make. Timo Scheider's ninth place and Heinz-Harald Frentzen's 12th place hardly reflect our true performance. To sum up the season I'd have to say that we're proud to compete in the DTM. The DTM is the Formula 1 of touring cars. We're always seeking the toughest competition and we've found it with Mercedes and Audi."
"It's fantastic to be able to wrap up the season with a sold-out event in a record year of more than three quarters of a million spectators in total. Thanks to all the fans. We're looking forward to 2005."