DTM » 23 July 2006
Maiden win for Spengler as Schneider extends lead.
Bruno Spengler claimed his first ever DTM victory in the fifth round of the championship at the Norisring in front of a record 147,000 people, the Canadian benefiting from the misfortune of early leader Jamie Green to jump Bernd Schneider at the pit stops and take the win.
Spengler, in his first season as a works AMG-Mercedes driver, had started the race in third place but found himself in second place when Green, who was leading having started from pole position, pulled into the pit lane to retire after he spun at the Scholler-S.
At that point Schneider inherited the lead, with Spengler and Mika Hakkinen in close attention, while Mattias Ekstrom and Tom Kristensen led the Audi charge.
With Mercedes seemingly having the advantage on the short street circuit, Audi tried different strategies with their drivers, with Kristensen making his two pit stops very early, while Heinz-Harald Frentzen proved the last of the late stoppers.
Of the two, Kristensen's strategy appeared to work, moving up to fourth place with the finish in sight. However, the Dane eventually slipped back to fifth place, being overtaken by the 2005-specification Mercedes of Stefan Mucke who put on a stunning charge from 19th on the grid, overtaking driver after driver on the way to fourth place - his best finish in four years of competing in the DTM.
Brands Hatch winner Mattias Ekstrom had to settle for sixth place, ahead of fellow Audi drivers Timo Scheider and Pierre Kaffer, who rounded out the point scorers in the top eight.
The lead though remained hotly contested until the end with championship leader Schneider seemingly looking as though he would take his third win of the year. However, while he took his pit stop in the middle of the window, Spengler remained on track until the latter part of the race, eventually diving into the pits with just 18 of laps to go, emerging back to on track with just a second separating him from his team-mate.
From here Spengler held Schneider off by less than a second to the flag to record his maiden win in only his second season of touring car racing and his first win in four years. The Canadian driver was also delighted to claim victory at what is the DTM's jewel in the crown.
“Celebrating my maiden DTM win here at the Norisring is just unbelievable. I am overjoyed. My last win is a long time ago, that was in 2002 in Formula Renault. Winning here today is a dream. The atmosphere at the Norisring is incredible and therefore, this race win almost means twice as much.”
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