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Schneider: I didn't know Martin was leading!
1 January 1901
Bernd Schneider admits he was surprised to come away with victory in the fourth DTM round of the season at Brands Hatch, the German earning the win from sixth on the grid courtesy of a perfect race strategy.
Although hardly a stranger to the top of the podium, the multiple champion had nonetheless barely featured as a front runner through the weekend, but hinted at his pace during morning warm-up when he emerged with the fastest time.
Even so, Schneider had to produce something special on a circuit that offered up precious few overtaking opportunities and, together with his Mercedes crew, duly did so by entering the pit lane after just a handful of laps for a new set of tyres.
Pumping in a series of strong laps, Schneider – fifth after the first lap – was effectively up to third when Alex Premat and Mika Hakkinen made their stop and re-emerged behind the German.
Although he fell behind Hakkinen again during the second round of stops, Schneider's fresher tyres in the latter stages of the race saw the Finn concede the place to his team-mate, allowing him then to leapfrog a late stopping Bruno Spengler and Mattias Ekstrom too.
Up to second, Schneider went on to edge Martin Tomczyk coming out of the pit lane to take the lead of the race for the first time on lap 62 and go on to hold off his countryman to the chequered flag for his first win of the season.
“After the first tyre change,” the reigning champion told
, “he was quicker than I was when he was behind me but when I made my second stop it was the other way around, which put me off a bit..
“At this stage, we did not know whether or not to let me by because we didn't know how the race would go. Then he started having problems and he was slowing down so he let me by and I was able to keep the Audis behind me.
Indeed, Schneider reveals he did not believe he would be able to win from sixth on the grid, not least because the Brands Hatch circuit had shown itself to be very difficult to pass on.
“I didn't think I could win from sixth. I was confident before qualifying but I could only qualify sixth, which I was disappointed with because the car had the speed to be on the front row.
“Plus my team-mates were on the front row and they would have had a similar strategy to me and it would not be easy to overtake them. However, I had a good strategy and the car was brilliant.”
Even so, Schneider did admit he had not realised that his biggest rival for victory was not Ekstrom directly behind him, but instead the second Red Bull sponsored Abt Sportsline A4 of Tomczyk, a long way up the road with one stop still to complete
“I didn't know Martin was leading! Then I saw him coming out of the pit lane and it was then that I realised how tough the last few laps would be, because he had new tyres and mine were already 20 laps old. I knew he would put pressure on me but the car was brilliant and although I didn't have the fastest laps, I did what I could to protect my lead.”
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