Ricardo Sperafico might have won the eighth round of the FIA F3000 series at Hockenheim, but it did little to prevent Swedish title rival Bjorn Wirdheim from stealing the show - and the 2003 championship crown.

Second was the perfect result for the 23-year old Arden International driver who, in his second season of F3000, has proved to be the class of the field with a couple of wins and only a single race where he has failed to score points or be on the podium.

"Today is like a dream for me," said Wirdheim after the race. "The team have been fantastic all year and today is the realisation of a lot of very hard work. I am overjoyed to have beaten so many really top drivers and I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who has believed in me during my career."

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It was a joyous podium at the end of the 32-lap race that saw the drivers tested to the limits as temperatures hovered around the 30-degree mark.

Sperafico, who started from pole, scored a convincing second victory of the year in his Coloni Motorsport entry, mirroring his triumph at the A1-Ring earlier in the season. The Brazilian led home Wirdheim by just over three seconds and said afterwards that he hoped the result would allow him a crack at second overall in the championship.

"It was a great race, but a demanding one, as, in the first part, I wasn't allowed to make mistakes because Wirdheim was very close,'' he noted, ''I'm pleased with my second place in the drivers' standings and we are confident about a great result in Budapest and at Monza too."

Joining Sperafico and Wirdheim on the podium was Red Bull Junior driver Patrick Friesacher, who leapt from fourth on the grid to overtake team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi and score his best result since finishing second in the season opener at Imola back in April.

Liuzzi eventually came in fourth, closely followed by American Townsend Bell, who scored points for the third race in succession in fifth place. Tony Schmidt did well in his home event to claim three points for Team Astromega, ahead of Italian Giorgio Pantano, who lost out in a furious opening lap battle with the two drivers to finish ahead of him.

The final point went to Jaroslav Janis in the ISR Superfund Charouz Lola, but only after the young Czech driver survived a collision with Italian Valerio Scassellati who returned to the BCN Competicion car after injury ruled him out of the last race at Silverstone.

Scassellati's team-mate, Will Langhorne, finished twelfth behind an entertaining battle comprising of Raffaele Giammaria, Yannick Schroeder and Zsolt Baumgartner, who returned to the Coloni cockpit after taking part in F1 testing on Friday with Jordan Grand Prix.

Championship rookies Michael Keohane and Sam Hancock had differing fortunes during the race, with the Irishman retiring with mechanical problems on lap seven and Hancock having a solid run to 13th. The Londoner impressed with his sensible approach after just a handful of testing laps in the Jordan Junior Lola before the race weekend kicked off on a track he had never been to before. His team-mate Enrico Toccacelo, who won the Nurburgring event in June, retired at the end of the first lap with accident damage after contact with fellow Italian Giorgio Pantano.

The day, however belonged to Bjorn Wirdheim and Arden International, who will now go to the Hungaroring and Monza as 2003 FIA F3000 drivers' champions.