Timo Scheider took the race lead into the first corner at Hockenheimring, the DTM (Deutsch Tourenwagen Masters) season finale, and drove flawlessly to hold that lead and win the race, and, more importantly, the 2008 DTM championship, for Audi.
"This is the most beautiful day of my life in motorsport," said the newly-crowned champion after taking the chequered flag. "The final lap was full of emotions, a feeling one can hardly describe. I have wished nothing more than this title and I didn't want to lose it in the last race. Now, I would rather be standing somewhere at the back and realise what I have achieved. I knew how difficult it would be and therefore, I had put everything at the start. That worked out fine."
His championship rival, Paul di Resta, made Scheider work for that victory, but was never able to get close enough to mount a serious challenge for the lead -- and the championship.
But as Scheider noted, the start was critical: Scheider got his timing spot-on, and launched his Audi A4 from the third grid position, passing both di Resta and polesitter -- and Audi teammate -- Mattias Ekstrom in the process.
Ekstrom naturally did not take any risks at the start in order to defend against Scheider: a crash of the two leading Audis at the first corner would have given di Resta a Sunday drive to victory and the championship. However, there were two cars with the three-pointed star coming up quickly behind Scheider.
"My race today was very exciting -- primarily the first half lap," Ekstrom explained. "My start wasn't perfect and Timo was coming from behind. I fought hard with the colleagues from Mercedes. My own result wasn't so important today - it was all about Audi and the title
After Scheider made his way to the front, Ekstrom defended second place against frenzied attacks from di Resta, running wide on several turns to block passing attempts. Jamie Green took advantage of the fight at the hairpin, and made his way past both di Resta and Ekstrom to take second.
"On the first lap at the hairpin, Ekstrom blocked the inner line," Green recounted the events of the early battle. "When Paul went to the outside, Ekstrom tried to push him aside - I already know these manoeuvres by him from Barcelona. I was able to pass on the inside and was second. Later on, I backed off, because I wanted to give Paul the best possible chance to attack Timo."
The Scot finally made his way past Ekstrom later on that first lap, but the latter's driving had by then earned him an investigation, which would result in a three-second stop-and-go penalty. He would eventually finish the race in seventh place.
"It was not nice that Mattias Ekstrom tried to push me off the track, not once but twice," di Resta grimaced, after congratulating Scheider on his championship. I am not known for complaining quickly or being somebody who cannot lose!"
Meanwhile, di Resta quickly got past Green, the Briton quickly conceding the position to allow his teammate to fight for the championship. And at this point, the calculations for the championship points became extremely simple: the winner of the race would also win the championship.
And in spite of di Resta's best efforts, he was not able to put together a concerted attack on Scheider. He had a few heart-stopping moments driving side-by-side with Audi's Martin Tomczyk just after his second pit stop, but still made it past the German quickly.
In the end it was Scheider's pace that made all the difference, and his Audi crossed the finish line 3.062 clear of di Resta, with the fireworks going off simultaneously to celebrate the new champion. The victory, Scheider's third of the year, gave him a total of 75 points, four ahead of di Resta and 19 in front of third-placed Mattias Ekstrom, the 2007 champion.
"Today, a dream has come true for me," Said Scheider. "I want to thank Audi, my team, Abt Sportsline, and all my fans for their support and the trust they've placed in me. The year 2008 was incredible for me: I've been leading the championship since the second race and experienced so many great moments."
di Resta was closely followed home by his Mercedes teammates Jamie Green and Bruno Spengler, 0.487 and 1.231 seconds adrift, respectively. Audi's Tom Kristensen crossed the line in fifth place, less than half a second behind Spengler, having climbed up from an eighth grid position.
Bernd Schneider, who holds numerous DTM records, finished sixth in his final DTM race, though over 10 seconds adrift of Kristensen. Schneider announced his retirement from racing earlier this week.
The Mercedes team was hoping to celebrate the end of his career along with a championship for di Resta, but Schneider, who has won a record five DTM titles, still deserves the bash for his efforts over the years, and Mercedes will still give him that.
"Now, all this is finished and tonight, we will have a party for Bernd Schneider before he retires!" said di Resta after recounting the events of the day.