Gary Paffett was the beaming winner of the DTM's exhibition race in China today [Sunday].

The Briton pulled off a magnificent start-finish triumph in his AMG-Mercedes C-Class on the 2.84 kilometre-long street circuit in Shanghai for an advantage of 0.887 seconds over his team-mate Bernd Schneider.

"It was an incredibly tough race," said Paffett. "I had a pretty comfortable advantage after the accident behind me in the first bend. I didn't accelerate too much as the temperature of my engine was very high. Later, when Bernd got closer, I had to give my all in order to stay in front."

Paffett dominated the action at the front of the pack from the onset of the race and although Schneider was able to make up lost ground, he never really seriously challenged his young team-mate.

"I would never have expected a second place after such a qualifying," added Schneider. "I had a great start today and a fantastic race. I was lucky that I didn't touch the wall once this whole weekend, which means we can now prepare for the race on the N?rburgring without any hindrance."

The three Audi drivers, Tom Kristensen, Emanuele Pirro and Martin Tomczyk - the best-placed Audi drivers in qualifying - were eliminated in the melee at the start after bumping into each other.

Mattias Ekstr?m meanwhile battled his way forward over the 22 laps past Jean Alesi and Rinaldo Capello into third place.

"The race here in Shanghai was great fun," noted Ekstrom. "I started out in ninth position and already made it into fifth after the first lap following those accidents in front of me. I then overtook Capello and Alesi and drove home into third place. It's a great result to have started in ninth position and to end up on the podium, especially here in Shanghai."

Heinz-Harald Frentzen, whose contract extension with Opel for the 2005 season was announced today, held onto sixth place for a long time before ultimately settling for seventh.

The driver from M?nchengladbach thrilled the Chinese fans by averting crashing into the safety barrier thanks to a masterful manoeuvre.

"It was a brilliant event in an impressive city," said Heinz-Harald. "I could actually have driven even faster, but I had sadly picked up too much dirt, which blocked the radiator. I'm pretty satisfied with the result."

A manhole cover came unstuck in the start phase of the first of the originally planned two races of 30 minutes each. Bernd Mayl?nder in an AMG-Mercedes CLK was unable to steer clear of a collision and rammed into the obstacle. As a result, the race was interrupted and the manhole covers were welded firm for safety reasons. The first race was therefore cancelled due to time constraints.

"It was really worth it in the end," summed up Mercedes motorsport director, Norbert Haug. "We're immensely pleased with this double win at the Chinese premiere. Our teams and drivers worked brilliantly under the most difficult of conditions."

"Shanghai created a fantastic stage for the DTM in no time, but the race was of course not to our taste," added Audi's motorsport director, Wolfgang Ullrich. "We lost our three fastest cars in the first lap, which had started very well and were in good positions. So we couldn't really do anything in the end. Mattias once again made the most of the situation and battled his way forward into third place."