Gary Paffett did all he could in his fight for the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) championship at the Hockenheimring today, winning the race over his title rival, Timo Scheider. However, Scheider did not set a foot wrong and as he came into the season finale with a solid seven-point lead, he was able to seal his second consecutive championship by taking his Audi A4 to a solid second-place finish, 1.043 seconds behind the winner.
"I had a great race with two good pit stops," Scheider recalled. "Today, I didn't want to take any big risks. For me, it was just about brining it home. All in all, I am very happy. Gary was a hard, but fair rival and would have deserved the title, too."
Paffett, who started the race in his Mercedes C-class with only an outside chance, needing Scheider to finish sixth or worse in order to have an opportunity, will have to wait until 2010 for another chance to add to his 2005 DTM title. In spite of four victories in the 10 DTM events, it was another bridesmaid year for the young Londoner: he came second in 2004 as well, finishing that year behind Audi's Mattias Ekstrom.
"This season, we have scored four victories, and that means that we had a great car throughout the year," Paffett reflected on the season. "Still, in some races, it didn't go really well. I reckon that the races at Barcelona and Nurburgring have cost me the title. After Dijon, the championship came within reach for us once more. We haven't won the championship and obviously, I am now slightly disappointed."
The start of the race was as intense as the fight for the championship: Paffett and polesitter Ekstrom traded paint in the first few turns as the two fought for the lead. It was Ekstrom that came out on top of that scrap, but only one lap later the Swede pulled into the pits, his Audi suffering from cooling problems as a result of the battle, and had to abandon the race.
As Paffett took over the gift-wrapped race lead, Scheider stayed within striking distance, the gap between the two staying in the one-second range for most of the race. Even pit stops were picture-perfect for the two rivals, and neither gained any ground with those.
Paul di Resta had held on to his fourth-place starting position, and them moved into third after Ekstrom retired, and the Scot stayed in touch with Scheider throughout, though unable to mount an attack for second.
But with eight laps to go in the race, Susie Stoddart crashed her C-class heavily at the first corner, bringing out the safety car. The field circulated behind the safety car for five laps, setting the stage for a final three-lap sprint.
Scheider could not find a way past Paffett without risking the championship, and settled for the second-place finish.
Behind the two rivals, it was di Resta's Mercedes, 0.749 seconds adrift of Scheider, and Alexandre Premat in a 2008-spec Audi A4. Jamie Green -- also in a 2008 Audi -- and Oliver Jarvis had a furious scrap in the closing laps, and Green came out on top from that one, finishing fifth, while Jarvis had to settle for sixth.
Bruno Spengler, who took the restart in fifth after the safety car period, could not hold off the fighting pair, and had to concede his position just two laps from the end, and settle for seventh place. Markus Winkelhock took eighth.
"I owe all this to my team, to Audi and especially to my family, and that makes me really proud," Scheider smiled after the race. "I had a lot of pressure and expectations resting on my shoulders, particularly the fact that I was defending the title."
Scheider finished the year with 64 points, with Paffett having 59. di Resta and Spengler moved past Ekstrom for third and fourth in the championship with 45 and 41 points, respectively, as the Swede's retirement left him pointless in the season finale. Ekstrom and his Audi teammate Martin Tomczyk finished fifth and sixth with 41 and 35 points.
However, Scheider admitted that his year is not yet quite finished, with one more important mission remaining. "At the start of this year, I gave my word that I will marry my fiancee Jasmin. And I have kept all the promises I have made in my life. Now, It looks like I will have to deliver on another promise."