Bernd Schneider gambled late in the race, staying out on slick tires even as rained poured down on the Nurburgring to take the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) victory for Mercedes over teammate Paul di Resta. Bernd Schneider, Team...
Bernd Schneider gambled late in the race, staying out on slick tires even as rained poured down on the Nurburgring to take the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) victory for Mercedes over teammate Paul di Resta.
With the leading Audi drivers having lost any chance at victory on a similar bet early in the race, it was all Mercedes at the front, with the Stuttgart marque sweeping the top four positions.
"I thank my team for their great efforts and for the right tyre choice," Schneider summed things up. "This was the key to success."
Early race, on a drying track, had looked even more lopsided. Mercedes held all seven top positions on the track by five laps into the race, despite their Ingolstadt rivals having taken four of the top six grid positions.
But with the skies opening above the circuit in the Eifel mountains again around lap 35, di Resta ducked into the pits. From a seemingly secure second position, he decided to fit rain boots onto his Mercedes on the 37th lap, with just six remaining.
The wet-weather tires were definitely the fast choice, with di Resta making time hand over fist over his teammates. Five seconds a lap faster than Schneider, he would have needed just another lap or two to take the victory; as it is, he didn't quite have enough laps to make up for the time lost in the extra pit stop.
"It was tricky to keep the car on the track in the rain," di Resta recounted. "In the end we decided to change to wet tyres because we didn't want to take chances with respect to the championship."
Schneider, as well as third- and fourth-placed Jamie Green and Gary Paffett stayed out on the slicks. The latter two were helpless in the face of di Resta's attack, the Scot easily slipping by his fellow Mercedes drivers, his rain tires far grippier on the wet track.
"It was tricky to push the car to the limit," Green recalled. "In the end it was difficult not to go off and I am happy that I didn't make a mistake."
Championship leader Timo Scheider was the top Audi driver in fifth, having fought an uphill battle all day. Well back in ninth after yesterday's wet qualifying lottery, Scheider had gambled by fitting wet-weather tires at the start.
With the track drying quicker than the Audi teams hoped, he ended up pulling into the pits, along with teammate Mattias Ekstrom, after the formation lap to switch to dry tires -- with a drop all the way to the back of the field.
Ekstrom and Scheider made good progress through the field, and made it to fifth and sixth by the time the rain finally set in, with ten laps to go. Scheider ducked into the pits a lap after di Resta, and to good effect as well -- and, equally, just not quite as good.
"That was one of the most eventful races in my DTM career so far -- I can't remember ever having pitted four times in a single race," Scheider said at the finish. "It all started with a wrong tyre decision. When we changed tyres after the formation lap we were initially running at the rear of the field. After using slicks twice it was not an easy decision to risk wets once more. I didn't know whether the remaining distance would be enough for that."
Scheider made up ground with ease, but was not able to pass his teammate Ekstrom until the final lap, with not quite enough time to catch and pass Paffett for fourth. Instead, the 2008-spec Mercedeses took all the four top spots.
Paffett and Ekstrom had battled hard in the closing laps, trading paint around the circuit as the racing surface was getting drenched again, the duo slipping and sliding through corners on their slick tires. Paffett eventually got the position back for good, and held on for a fourth-place finish.
Polesitter Tom Kristensen had a day to forget, the Danish veteran's stellar wet qualifying performance all but forgotten after a race that ended up the ace in the first-corner gravel trap on the 25th lap. He had already lost his pole advantage with a first-lap pit stop to change to slicks, as he had started on wet-weather rubber along with the rest of the leading Audi drivers.
Scheider's hard work paid off in the end with four championship points, and a continuing lead in the title fight. Green made up some ground, and moved into second position, with 40 points to Scheider's 44. Ekstrom and di Resta, with 38 and 37 points, respectively, are still very much in the frame as well.
The series now takes its late-summer break, with action resuming in five weeks' time at Brands Hatch. Mercedes will cross the channel with an extra five kilos of equalization weight -- and Audi with five less -- so the Stuttgarters will have their work cut out to to match this weekend's triumph on British soil.