Timo Scheider has clearly been the hottest driver in the second half of the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) season, with two wins and two second places in the last four races. Today's victory on Circuit de Catalunya cemented his hold on the top...
Timo Scheider has clearly been the hottest driver in the second half of the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) season, with two wins and two second places in the last four races. Today's victory on Circuit de Catalunya cemented his hold on the top spot in the DTM title chase, and the Audi driver is now 12 points clear of his closest challenger.
Scheider had had a tough time of it in qualifying, as he could not get his Audi A4 set up to his liking, leaving him in fifth place on the grid and outside the final-four qualifying shootout. The DTM veteran timed his start perfectly, though, and as the lights went out, he darted through the gap and nearly abreast of polesitter Tom Kristensen entering the first corner.
"I had a rocket start. I think that it would be nice when you could plan something like this," Scheider smiled. "Of course after starting from fifth on the grid my goal was to attack Gary (Paffett) in turn one as best I could. But that I'd manage such a start and take the lead was unusual."
There was admittedly a bit of Audi teamwork involved: both Kristensen and third-place starter Martin Tomczyk stayed to the right side of the track, leaving the left side open for Scheider to make his move, though it was still no cakewalk to make it through two grid rows -- and avoid the Mercedes of Paul di Resta and Gary Paffett in the second and fourth grid positions.
In the event, Scheider not only made it to the corner next to Kristensen, his line turned out to be the right one, and he was able to pull ahead of the Dane on the exit, to take the lead. Scheider, who had been able to sort out his settings in the morning's warmup session, was then able to stretch out a solid gap to Kristensen, and neither the sportscar ace nor anyone else would be able to mount a serious threat to Scheider throughout the remainder of the race.
"My pace and my car were very good," said Scheider. "I was able to achieve a lead of four, five seconds and then drive the race in a controlled manner. My engineer said that I didn't have to attack, so I adjusted my speed accordingly. We had two good pit stops. We clinched a nice victory, which is a very good feeling. And in the championship we've now got a lead of twelve points."
At the finish, the gap was 2.157 seconds in Scheider's favour as the two Audis cruised to a formation finish -- followed by Martin Tomczyk to give the Ingolstadt team a 1-2-3 finish and a sweep of the podium.
Kristensen, who had set a new track record in qualifying, congratulated his teammate on the victory: "He was consistently quick and deserves this victory. My start was good. I already saw Paul Di Resta and Martin Tomczyk in my mirror and was quite surprised to suddenly see Timo pass me on the left. I thought he might have jump-started and actually considered my response time at the start to be pretty good for a 42-year-old!"
Di Resta, who had started second, followed Kristensen and Scheider into the first corner, and looked strong for third place. However, Tomczyk stayed close to the young Scot, and it turned out that he was fueled for four extra laps to start. Once di Resta slipped into the pits on lap 14, Tomczyk picked up the pace, and by the time he had to pit four laps later, he was able to complete the pit stop and still exit in front of di Resta.
"In the end things were going exactly the way we'd been hoping they would before the race," Tomczyk said. "Timo won and now has a nice cushion of points in the championship. I'm very happy with third place and made another leap forward in the standings. Things are really going well at the moment. It's nice to be standing on the podium and being able to reward the hard work of the team by clinching places one, two and three."
As the race went on, di Resta began to struggle with the balance of his Mercedes, and to fall back through the field. He made his second stop early, and the lost places to Gary Paffett, Spengler and Ekstrom, finishing seventh.
The race was also a disappointment for Mercedes ace Paffett, whose title challenge has been fading with Scheider's charge in the last four races. Finishing fourth still gave him four points, but that's six less than Scheider scored, and the Briton is now 14 points adrift with only two races remaining on the calendar.
"We had expected to fight for victory, but our speed today was just not good enough," a grim-faced Paffett said. "A better result than fourth was not possible. It was a tough fight with (Mattias) Ekstrom towards the end, as his tyres were newer than mine and I was glad to hold him off."
Ekstrom is the only other driver with a realistic title chance; the two-time DTM champion had started well back on the grid, but challenged Paffett for fourth in the closing laps in a fender-to-fender fight, but was not able to make his way past Paffett's Mercedes.
"He tried to block me as much as he could," Ekstrom recounted. "Although we only exchanged a bit of paint I received a warning. That's why I wasn't able to attack harder in the end. Now I've got a twelve-point gap. That's a lot but the season isn't over yet."
In the heat of the fight, Ekstrom wasn't able to also effectively defend his position, and a lurking Bruno Spengler took advantage on the penultimate lap, slipping and scratching his way past the Swede. Spengler, too, earned a warning for pushing another car for his role.
The series moves to Dijon in France for its penultimate round in three weeks' time. With the Audis picking up another 5 kg of ballast after today's victory it won't be easy for Scheider, but a second-place finish would be enough for Scheider to clinch the title and become the first back-to-back champion since Bernd Schneider did it for Mercedes in 2000-2001.