Lausitz 2006: Schneider makes it two in a row
30 April 2006
Bernd Schneider continued his excellent start to the 2006 DTM Championship with his second win at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz, whilst Britain's Jamie Green once again failed to turn his pole position into that elusive first win.
Schneider, in the Vodafone AMG-Mercedes, made it forty-one career wins was followed home by Audi's Tom Kristensen who ended up as the only Audi in the top eight.
"It was a great race which was a lot of fun," exclaimed a delighted Schneider. "I had to fight a lot to hold off Ekström. We had a very good strategy and executed our pit stops very fast and I thank everybody in my team."
All eyes were on Green at the start, and it seems a lengthy massage on the grid did little to lift his starting jinx. Following his nightmare in the season opener at Hockenheim, Green struggled off the line allowing second place man Hakkinen to lead into the tight first corner.
Things got worse for Green on the cold track, as he exited turn one a wheel lock-up meant he was swamped by Mattias Ekstrom and Schneider ending up fourth by the end of the first lap and thereafter struggled for pace throughout the early laps.
Green pitted first on lap seven, followed by Canadian Mercedes pilot Bruno Spengler as Hakkinen continued in a strong lead closely followed by Ekstrom in the Audi, the Finn looked like a good bet for the win.
Hakkinen pitted on lap nineteen and again on lap thirty, it was to be the second stop that would lose the two-time F1 World Champion the race as a stuck wheel nut delayed hampered the Finn. Hakkinen however was luckier that Christian Abt who lost a wheel exiting the pits thus retiring his Playboy Audi A4.
Following his lengthy stop, Hakkinen found himself under pressure from Green who had found a good turn of pace and eventually forced his way past Hakkinen banging a few panels on the way and displaying his mettle to his elder team mate.
Hakkinen's woes meant Schneider assumed the lead ahead of Ekstrom and Kristensen and it seemed Audi had finally come good regarding a full-on challenge to Mercedes.
It wasn't do be for Ekstrom, however, the 2004 champion inexplicably ran out of fuel on the penultimate lap, handing Kristensen second with Schneider cruising to the victory as Hakkinen dramatically snatched the final podium place from Green a matter of yards from the flag.
"It was a very exciting race for me," said an upbeat Green. "First I lost some places and I made an early pit stop that got me stuck in traffic. After that I was driving well and catching up. I'm very happy to score some points."
Meanwhile, his team mate Hakkinen was forced to rue his pit stop problems, but was happy with his podium.
"This was a tough weekend," admitted the Finn, "we had a very good set-up, but unfortunately I lost time during my second pit stop. However, I finished on the podium like one year ago at this track."
From the Audi camp, Tom Kristensen had the most reason to be cheerful with his third place. "That was a good race for me, the strategy and pit stops were perfect, which shows me that I can rely one-hundred per cent on my team," said the Dane
"My A4 was very fast, and I was able to overtake several other drivers, which was great fun. Unfortunately, we only had a single set of new tyres with which we could play with in the race. We could have won today if we'd had a second set. A pair of second places isn't such a bad start to the season."
In contrast, fellow Audi charger Ekstrom admits his effective retirement from the race is anything but ideal in the championship stakes. "I could have finished as the runner-up," sighed the Swede, "but, unfortunately, retired due to lack of fuel. Scoring no points in two races now makes it very difficult for me in the Championship."
Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ulrich expressed a degree of happiness as his cars were in contention for the race win, but expected more than one Audi A4 DTM at the sharp end of results
"As at Hockenheim we put ourselves in a position where we were able to battle for the lead despite having started from two grid positions that weren't exactly ideal. Unfortunately Mattias ran out of fuel - the final refill didn't quite work as it should have.
"Kristensen also had the right pace. In the end the deciding factor was whether the one or other driver could take new or used tyres at the final pit-stop. We are obviously not happy that only one of our A4s was right at the front at the flag, but we saw an exciting race."