DTM 'king' Bernd Schneider added a fifth series crown to his impressive array of laurels at Le Mans last weekend, but he had to fight for it after an early collision left him right at the back of the field.
The German finished fifth in the penultimate round in France, after slipping down to 16th and last place following a first lap contretemps between Mattias Ekstrom, Frank Stippler and Mathias Lauda that forced him to take avoiding action. The comeback, though, only made his title triumph all-the-sweeter.
“I am overjoyed,” the 42-year-old said. “It's unbelievable. It is a really special one for me and this is a great day in my life.
“The race was not easy and I had some difficult fights. When I was pushed into the gravel on the first lap, I thought I would not be able to clinch the championship today. Therefore I am even happier that I was able to make it on my own with fifth place. I had a fantastic car and a perfect strategy.”
Key to Schneider's end-of-season success was his astounding consistency throughout the year, only twice finishing off the podium in a stunning campaign that began in perfect style with a brace of victories in the opening two rounds. He is the only driver to have scored points in every race this year, and has not suffered a retirement since September, 2005.
“I always knew what I could do and I didn't get nervous,” he added. “There is a high after every low – that is what motor racing is like.”
He put this philosophy to good use at both Zandvoort and Le Mans, where he put difficult qualifying sessions behind him to focus calmly on the race ahead and converted comparatively poor grid slots into second and fifth place finishes respectively.
“Like in almost every sport, it is the eventual result that counts,” he said. “Age also means experience and in situations like that, this is helpful.”
Schneider's outstanding achievement came somewhat against the odds, following troublesome campaigns in 2004 and 2005 during which he registered only two wins on his way to disappointing championship finishes for one with such high standards, and leading some to suggest he was past his best. His fifth DTM title, he argued, was a shot in the arm for his career and vindication for all those who had not lost confidence in him.