Three points – that is all that now separates Bernd Schneider from lifting his fifth DTM crown and re-writing the history books once more as the championship heads into its final two rounds.
The German – who triumphed in the series in 1995, 2000, 2001 and 2003 – is now a near certainty to clinch the honours again, barring a horrendous run of bad luck. Although he has not won a race since Lausitz back in April and has started on the front row of the grid only twice all season, his outstanding consistency has proved enough to keep chief title rival Tom Kristensen at bay in recent rounds, and as the DTM heads to France Schneider is the firm favourite to seal the trophy.
With an 18-point lead and only 20 left up for grabs, the 42-year-old from St Ingbert goes into the weekend in confident mood, though he knows equally he can take nothing for granted as the DTM breaks new territory again following its debut outing in Barcelona two weeks ago.
“My advantage is good; however nothing is decided yet,” he admitted. “My team and I remain focussed and we will give it our all again at Le Mans.”
France has happy memories for the championship leader, who claimed the inaugural International Touring Car (ITC) Championship at Magny-Cours in 1995, while Le Mans will also mark the 50th race in the DTM for team-mates Jean Alesi and Stefan Mucke.
“This will be my first race on home soil since I made my DTM debut four-and-a-half years ago,” said Alesi, who in that period has achieved four victories and two pole positions in the category. “I'm really looking forward to it and I want to show the French spectators some exciting fights and a good result.”
The third driver still in with a shot at the title – albeit a slim one – is Bruno Spengler, who has won twice this year and currently lies 19 points adrift of Schneider in the championship chase.
“I like the circuit at Le Mans,” the Canadian said. “In 2003, I achieved a third place here in the Formula Three Euro Series, but with the DTM car it will be my first time at this track. If I manage to be at the front in qualifying, I will have a chance of winning – and then I will take advantage of this opportunity.”
“Le Mans is the circuit with the longest motorsport history in Europe,” added Mercedes-Benz Motorsport vice president Norbert Haug, remaining circumspect ahead of the weekend. “Our target will be to take another step towards the title win, or in an ideal case, clinch it a race early. Despite the fact Bernd needs only three more points out of the two remaining races, we are aware anything is possible in the DTM.”