Bernd Schneider drove his D2 AMG Mercedes to an unaccustomed second-place finish in the second round of the 2001 DTM at the Nurburgring last weekend, having had to play second fiddle to one of the improving Audi TT-Rs.
After 22 laps, fraught with many hard-fought battles, the reigning DTM champion finished just 1.517sec behind Laurent Aiello, the Frenchman taking the Abt-Audi team's first series victory. All three marques involved in the championship - Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Opel - finished in the top ten, and each took a turn to lead the race.
Light rain before the start of the eight-lap qualifying race caused a first corner incident when Thomas Jager - driving last year's Original-Teile AMG Mercedes from fifth on the grid - braked too late and pushed Schneider, third on the grid, onto the grass. Schneider's engine stalled, but he recovered from last place to finish sixth. Aiello won, with Peter Dumbreck the best Mercedes driver in third ahead of Jager and Pedro Lamy.
Right at the start of the main race, Jager improved from fourth to second behind leader Aiello, with victim Schneider following in fourth behind Martin Tomczyk's Audi. When Aiello pitted for his compulsory tyre change on lap eight, Jager took the lead for two laps, but had to give up his slender advantage when pitting one lap after Schneider, on lap ten. By lap 18, when all drivers had made their stops, Aiello held a 0.4secs lead over Schneider, with Jager third. It was in this order that they crossed the finish line four laps later.
''In the qualifying race, I was pushed into a spin and on to the grass,'' Schneider confirmed, ''My engine stalled, so I had to charge through the field from last place. The main race was fun, but it was tough. Thanks to my team's good pit-stop performance, I rejoined the race right behind Aiello. I tried as hard as I could, but he didn't make any mistake.''
Jager apologised for the error which caused Mercedes' top man to lose the chance of another victory, but said that he was happy to have salvaged a podium finish from his altercation with Schneider.
''I caused some chaos in the qualifying race, when I misjudged the situation under braking,'' he admitted, ''I feel sorry for Bernd, but I'm happy to achieve a podium finish in the main event.''
Warsteiner AMG Mercedes driver Marcel Fassler finished fifth after exciting battles with team-mate Uwe Alzen and Tomczyk.
''I like tough fights, but not when I'm in the centre!'' the Swiss said, ''Today I was hit by too many other drivers. Under these circumstances I'm happy with my fifth place.''
Alzen retired from sixth place on the final lap due to a broken suspension at the right front wheel, a legacy he felt of competition in the day's earlier event.
''The problem was probably caused by a collision in the qualifying race,'' Alzen said.