DTM Brands Hatch: Champion’s drive by Schneider

Bernd Schneider, Mika Hakkinen, DTM, Brands Hatch, 2007Bernd Schneider gave a typically virtuoso performance to win at Brands Hatch under intense pressure from the Audis of Martin Tomcyk and Mattias Ekstrom.

Schneider took the lead through some canny strategy and by being one of few drivers to successfully execute any passes. It saved him valuable time in traffic around the short Brands Hatch Indy course.

But championship leader Paul di Resta suffered a disastrous race at home, being taken out in a multi-car collision at the second corner.

Bruno Spengler made a better start than team mate Mika Hakkinen at the start and led the field around Paddock Hill.

But there was chaos at Druids when several drivers decided to brake several meters later than they should have done. The result was Paul di Resta and Mike Rockenfeller stuck in the gravel at the top of the hill, while several of their assailants escaped.

The safety car stayed out until lap seven. Although the leaders held order on the restart Gary Paffett moved to mass Mattias Lauda at Graham Hill bend and the two make contact. Lauda skirted across the grass but Paffett moved up to tenth.

Several of the Mercedes drivers made early pit stops – Jamie Green (lap eight), Bernd Schneider (lap nine) and then Paffett (lap ten). Schneider was the leader of the ‘first stoppers’ and was able to lap a few tenths quicker than than Spengler-Hakkinen battle for the lead.

Scheneider’s pace told when Hakkinen came in for his stop on lap 22 – and the reigning champion got ahead of the former F1 star. He was also aided by Timo Scheider, who made his second stop due to a puncture at the same time and slightly delayed Hakkinen.

This left five drivers yet to pit – Spengler, Mattias Ekstrom, Martin Tomcyk, Marcus Winklehock and Adam Carroll, the latter having been involved in the lap one melee.

Before the leaders had even made their first stops Green was in for his second on lap 29. Meanwhile the Mercedes up front were arranging themselves in accordance with team orders – Daniel la Rosa allowing Schneider and Hakkinen through into sixth and seventh.

Carroll, the Audi driver in fifth, could not be expected to be so accommodating towards his Mercedes rivals. But nonetheless Schneider made one of the rare passing moves of the race on him, lasting the entire length of the pit straight, to move ahead.

Meanwhile Hakkinen made his second stop after a very brief stint and resumed ahead of Green, Alexandre Premat and Paffett, each of whom had also stopped twice. Schneider’s second stop came four laps later and dropped him behind the Finn.

Spengler finally made his first stop on lap 36. Martin Tomcyk was the final man to make his first stop two laps later (except for Daniel la Rosa and Susie Stoddard who had pitted before the window opened), dropping to third with team mate Ekstrom between him and Spengler.

On lap 39 Paffett executed a replay of his move on Lauda with exactly the same consequences – only this time he was lapping Vanina Ickx, who was already four laps behind the leaders. Ickx – who had also been knocked off while being lapped at Oschersleben – received the driving standards flag shortly afterwards.

Leader Spengler was delayed briefly lapping (Audi driver) Marcus Winklehock. This allowed Ekstrom to close to within half a second – just before ducking into the pits on lap 48.

But crucially Ekstrom came back out of the pits behind Hakkinen and Schneider. Spengler was in the pits next time around for a lightning quick stop – until he stalled the engine. His mechanics reacted instantaneously and pushed the Mercedes off on its way but the damage was done and he fell behind Ekstrom.

With Martin Tomcyk yet to make his last stop Hakkinen was effectively the leader. But he began to drop back being overtaken first by Schenider on lap 54 and then Ekstrom three laps later.

With Ekstrom released the 2006 Brands Hatch winner began taking up to half a second a lap out of the German. Schneider was around 23 seconds behind Tomcyk who was yet to make his final stop.

Schneider and Ekstrom thundered across the line on lap 63 separated by just 0.4s. But somehow Tomcyk managed to emerge from his pit stop between the pair of them, team mate Ekstrom having to take evasive action.

Next time around Tomcyk’s Audi was dodging around behind Schneider’s Mercedes, hunting for an opening. Schneider clung to the lead with a pair of Audis in his mirrors and 15 laps to go.

Further back Spengler had caught Hakkinen and was one tenth of a second away from taking fourth place.

As the final laps ticked away Schneider’s Mercedes looked vulnerable – the German taking a wider line through the Campbell/Surtees complex, nursing his tyres that had done 18 laps more than Tomcyk’s. But the Audi driver looked increasingly unable to find anywhere on the circuit where he could turn his extra speed into a pass.

On the penultimate lap Schneider suddenly found Ickx’s Audi ahead of him – the Audi driver having gone off at Graham Hill bend. Just when it looked as though he was about to be held up she moved wide at Clearways and the Mercedes stormed through to win.

Tomcyk and Ekstrom joined him on the podium. Hakkinen held off Spengler to take fourth and Green, Premat and Abt were the last of the points scorers.

The result propels Martin Tomcyk to the top of the ever-changing DTM points table, two points clear of team mate Ekstrom. Schneider’s win puts him third ahead of former leader Paul di Resta.

DTM Championship standings

1. Martin Tomcyk 20
2. Mattias Ekstrom 18
3. Bernd Schneider 17.5
4. Paul di Resta 16
5. Gary Paffett 11.5
6. Mika Hakkinen 10
7. Jamie Green 7.5
=8. Timo Scheider 7
=8. Bruno Spengler 7
=10. Daniel la Rosa 6
=10. Mike Rockenfeller 6
=10. Alexandros Maragaritis 6
13. Alexandre Premat 2
=14. Mathias Lauda 1
=14. Christian Abt 1

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