The race at the ninth and penultimate round of the 2003 DTM at Zandvoort saw home hero Christijan Albers triumph for AMG-Mercedes in front of a record crowd - but only after pole sitter, and race leader, Timo Scheider lost a wheel after a routine pit stop.

The first half of the race was marked by a breathtaking battle between the two 24-year olds, with Opel driver Scheider leading from the start and absorbing constant pressure from his opponent.

However, the crucial moment came when Albers pitted first for new tyres, on lap 20 of 36 - Shieder came in a lap later, but in their haste to keep the German in front, the right front wheel wasn't properly attached by the Opel team and the devastated Astra V8 driver was forced to stop soon after.

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Thus, Albers went on to take a popular home win, ahead of Mercedes-Benz colleague driver Bernd Schneider, while last year's winner Mattias Ekstr?m occupied the final podium slot. Manuel Reuter came home fourth with his Opel Astra V8 Coup?.

"It is hard to describe the feelings that I had during my cooling-down lap," beamed race winner Albers. "When you look out of the car and you are being cheered by thousands of people, it sends shivers down your spine. It is just great. Winning right here at Zandvoort in front of my home crowd means an incredible lot to me."

By contrast, Scheider couldn't hide his disappointment after driving the race of his life.

"Retiring while in the lead is very hard," said a tearful Timo. "Basically, the fact that my team has always been among the best in pit stops throughout the season is making it even more dramatic.On the other hand, we have shown today as the entire Opel-team that we are able to win a race. We have been the strongest make at Zandvoort throughout the weekend, and that gives me courage and energy for the final in a fortnight."

"From my point of view, the hero of the day is Timo Scheider. He was setting the pace and controlled the race," claimed Opel Motorsport-director Volker Strycek. "Alain Menu was also running in a fine and safe third place as he was hit by another driver that put an end to his race."

Meanwhile, point's leader Schneider paid tribute to his team for resurrecting his weekend: "Basically, I owe today's second place to my team, which had a perfect strategy that worked out perfectly. After my problems on Friday and in qualifying, my team has given me a perfect car for the race and got me up to the front with sensational pit stops," he said.

Heading into the Hockenheim finale in a fortnight's time, Schneider is now leading by just one point from Albers, setting up a thrilling season finale.

Three times' champion Schneider is looking forward to the showdown, where he'll have the home advantage. "Hockenheim is my home round, I really like the track and I know every single corner there like my back yard," he stated.

"It was a well deserved victory for Christijan and a great effort by the team and by Bernd," declared Mercedes-Benz Motorsport-director Norbert Haug. "Going into the final at Hockenheim knowing that we have won the title is a great feeling. It is now down to Christijan and Bernd to decide the championship between them."

Meanwhile, reigning champion Laurent Aiello (Abt-Audi) lost his chance of taking the title after finishing ninth today, while seventh placed Mercedes-driver F?ssleris also now out of contention.