Le Mans: Spengler wins, Schneider is champion

Third victory for Bruno Spengler, fifth DTM title for Bernd Schneider Canadian Mercedes-Benz works-driver Bruno Spengler scored his third victory of the season at the first appearance of the DTM at the Bugatti Circuit in the French city of Le ...

Third victory for Bruno Spengler, fifth DTM title for Bernd Schneider

Canadian Mercedes-Benz works-driver Bruno Spengler scored his third victory of the season at the first appearance of the DTM at the Bugatti Circuit in the French city of Le Mans, but it was another Mercedes-Benz-driver with the initials "BS", namely Bernd Schneider, who came out on top of the championship standings.

Fifth place was enough for the 42-year old driver to secure his fifth DTM championship title with one race remaining. For Schneider, the success is another great achievement after his earlier DTM titles in 1995, 2000, 2001 and 2003. "It is unbelievable, after problems on the opening lap and dropping back to last still making it up into fifth. I am overjoyed", a visibly relieved Schneider commented after the 39 lap race.

After his third race win of the season, Bruno Spengler moved up into runner-up position in the championship standings. At Le Mans, in front of 34,000 spectators during the race weekend, Spengler was followed home by two times' Formula 1 world champion, Mika Häkkinen, who completed the one-two victory for Mercedes-Benz with his best result of the season. Danish driver Tom Kristensen, who is the record holder at Le Mans with seven victories in the legendary 24 Hour race, claimed third position for Audi.

Bernd Schneider had an action-packed race. After problems in qualifying, he started only ninth, his worst qualifying result of the year so far. Then he became involved in turmoil right after the start. As several cars tangled, causing former DTM champion Mattias Ekström and Frank Stippler (both Audi) as well as Mathias Lauda (Mercedes-Benz) to retire, Schneider was also hit and ploughed through the gravel trap.

16th and last car on the track in the subsequent safety car period, his team decided to call him in early for his first mandatory pit stop once racing had resumed. After that, Schneider moved well up the order and eventually came out in fifth place. This allowed him to extend his margin in the championship standings to 13 points, with only ten points at stake during the season final at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg in a fortnight

Bruno Spengler, who had started from pole-position for the second time this year, drove an almost faultless race on his way to his third victory of the season, which makes him the driver with the most wins so far this year. "It is like at the Nürburgring. There, I also claimed pole in the final second and then I won the race, I did it likewise over here and for me, it is like a home win", Spengler commented.

As the chequered flag was out after 39 laps at the 4.180 kilometres long circuit, his fellow-Mercedes-Benz-driver Mika Häkkinen was hot on his heels: the Finn came home second, his best DTM result of the season, only 0.398 seconds behind Spengler. Tom Kristensen and Martin Tomczyk claimed third and fourth place for Audi, followed by Bernd Schneider, who scored four points for finishing fifth.

British Mercedes-Benz-driver Jamie Green came sixth. Alexandros Margaritis (Mercedes-Benz) and Timo Scheider (Audi) completed the points-scoring positions, both with year-old machinery. Susie Stoddart was best-placed driver with a 2004-spec car. The Scottish lady racer finished 13th.

Bernd Schneider (DTM champion 2006, Vodafone AMG-Mercedes): "Today, I am really, really happy, having won my fifth DTM title. After the start, things were not particularly looking well for me, as I had run through the gravel trap and was last in the field. Thanks to a fantastic car and a perfect strategy, I still managed to make up into fifth place. I will be back to defend my title next year! I still enjoy racing in the DTM very much."

Bruno Spengler (1st place, DaimlerChrysler Bank AMG-Mercedes): "I am very, very happy with my third victory. Winning at Le Mans is particularly beautiful, after all, racing here in France is something like a home race for me. Congratulations to Bernd, he is a worthy champion. I am now runner-up in the overall standings and will do everything I can to keep that position at Hockenheim."

Mika Häkkinen (2nd Vodafone AMG-Mercedes): "After a difficult season, I am happy to be back on the podium again. Bernd's title win shows in an exemplary way how team work is being done. Well done, Bernd!"

Tom Kristensen (3rd place, Audi Sport Team Abt): "Congratulations to Bernd! He is a worthy champion as he has been showing a consistent performance throughout the season. Of course, I am disappointed, as I also had chances of winning the title. Unfortunately, we never really used our opportunities, but there are still many races. Another chance next year!"

Mercedes-Benz motor sport director Norbert Haug: "This is a great day for the entire team. They have done a perfect job and I want to thank all our three teams. After we have lost the last two races to Audi, this is a great result and the best situation for the final at Hockenheim. The fact that Bernd still made it up into fifth place from the back of the field is a great performance. We have always kept our faith in Bernd and his performance and his title doesn't come by chance. After 15 years, we know each other and that is a good basis for being successful together. All in all, I think that this was Bernd Schneider's strongest season. He is a real champion and has deserved the title."

Audi motor sport director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich: "First of all, congratulations to Mercedes-Benz and especially to Bernd Schneider for winning the title. An old hand has won again. Here, we have seen a strong performance by the Mercedes teams. But we were also strong here, especially in qualifying yesterday. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough today in the race, altough our cars became quicker and quicker as the race went on. Now, we are working all-out to claim runner-up position for Tom Kristensen at Hockenheim."

-credit: dtm

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About this article
Series DTM
Drivers Mika Hakkinen , Tom Kristensen , Martin Tomczyk , Bernd Schneider , Timo Scheider , Norbert Haug , Mattias Ekström , Bruno Spengler , Alexandros Margaritis , Mathias Lauda , Jamie Green
Teams Team Abt