Title candidate Schneider in front, rival Albers only ninth
The excitement for the closest title decision ever already attracted thousands of fans to the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg on Friday of the final weekend. Bernd Schneider, who is leading the standings by one point, clearly defeated his rival for the title. With 1.36.419 minutes, the three times' champion set the fastest time of the day at his favourite track with the AMG-Mercedes CLK.
Christijan Albers, second in the championship and weakened by a cold, couldn't counter and only found himself down in ninth place, over half a second down. Like most recently at Zandvoort, the Opel-team showed a very good performance. Alain Menu was second with 1.36.548 minutes, Manuel Reuter was fourth, Timo Scheider was fifth.
Third place was occupied by former F1-driver Jean Alesi, who admittedly isn't playing a role in the championship race anymore, but of course would like to bow out of the season with a win, just like Mattias Ekström, who was the fastest Abt-Audi-driver of the day in sixth place. The times of the first ten DTM-drivers were within only seven tenths of a second.
"My lap time of today is by no means an early decision," Schneider said. "We have just concentrated on getting the set-up of my CLK right and finding the optimal compromise for the Grand Prix-track. The many spectators that are here today already are the greatest thing. I have never seen something like this on a Friday at the DTM. One really had a hard time going through the paddock quickly."
Opel's longest-standing driver Manuel Reuter agreed: "It is a good feeling to see how well the DTM is being accepted here. I have already signed many autographs. Concerning the set-up of the car, it is incredibly important to be on the right way on Friday already and complete the programme without any trouble. My team has done a great job, because my Astra Coupé was perfect on the track."
Mattias Ekström, fourth in the championship with his Abt-Audi TT-R, was not quite satisfied with his sixth place of today. "But it doesn't make me nervous either. Today, we have tested a few things and for tomorrow, we still have a few minor changes up our sleeves. And then it's flat out towards pole-position -- if Schneider doesn't prevent this."