Jamie Green recorded a memorable fourth DTM win around the Norisring after stealing victory from Martin Tomczyk at what turned out to be the very last corner of the race.
After the sunshine and 35 degree heat experienced during qualifying on Saturday, the weather conditions in Nuremberg had changed dramatically for the race with heavy rain throughout the morning leading up to the start.
There was chaos at the first corner when polesitter Gary Paffett got spun around by his Mercedes teammate and fellow front-row starter Green, who in turn had received contact from the Audi of Mattias Ekstrom which had been tapped by Augusto Farfus' BMW.
Paffett was left facing the wrong way, blocking the track for Ekstrom, Farfus and a number of others.
As the top four on the grid hit trouble, fifth-place starter Ralf Schumacher nipped down the inside of the turn and into the lead ahead of the BMW's of Tomczyk and Bruno Spengler, with Green in fourth as the safety car came out.
Schumacher held the lead until lap 17 when his car stuttered coming out of the second hairpin, dropping him to fourth place.
Tomczyk inherited the lead, and was leading again when Spengler made the second of his mandatory pitstops as the window closed at the end of lap 63 – the Canadian rejoining just behind the defending champion, who looked set to score his first victory for BMW, who in turn would end a nine-race winning streak at the Norisring by Mercedes.
But with the race heading into the final five minutes of its time limit of one hour and 15 minutes, Green was catching the BMW pairing at a second a lap on a drying track.
He got by Spengler, a fellow three-time Norisring winner coming into the weekend, on lap 76 and set off after Tomczyk with a couple of minutes left on the clock.
Coming into the second hairpin on lap 78 with just a handful of seconds left on the clock, Green dived down the inside of Tomczyk, made slight contact and got by.
As Green sprinted across the line, the checkered flag was out and he had claimed the most dramatic of victories.
“My tyres were giving excellent grip on the last ten laps and my pace was very strong,” said the Leicester-born racer, who has moved up to second in the points at the halfway stage of the season.
“My Mercedes AMG C-CoupÃ© was running superbly, and I was grinning from ear to ear on those last few laps. At the end of an amazingly exciting race, I capped it all off by overtaking Bruno and Martin. I am absolutely delighted about this win. It's my fourth on this track and also the tenth on the trot for Mercedes-Benz at the Norisring. So a fantastic day all round.”
Tomczyk was made to wait for his first BMW win, but was pragmatic about the result.
“It is obviously no fun for a racing driver to miss out on a possible victory on the final lap,” he said. “Immediately after the race I was extremely disappointed to have thrown the victory away.
“I am quite happy now though: that is my second podium in a row. I finished runner-up here in difficult conditions, just as I did in Spielberg. Today we proved we are also competitive in the rain. That is very encouraging for the rest of the season.”
Spengler picked up his third podium finish of the year and like Tomczyk he was disappointed with losing a place at the end but was pleased with his team's performance.
“It was a long and tough race,” he said. “After qualifying seventh I am very happy with third place in the race. On the other side, it is obviously bitterly disappointing to miss out on a BMW one-two on the final lap.
“As early as the warm-up I noticed we could also be very quick in the rain. The track conditions were extreme. The fans created a great atmosphere. For them it was exciting – for us drivers it was also very tiring. Overall we have produced another fantastic result that we can be proud of for BMW this weekend.”
After dropping towards the back of the field after the start incident, Paffett fought his way back up the order, staying out front in clean air before making both his mandatory stops in the last six laps of the window. He rejoined in fourth place, and although it was Bromley driver's worst result so far this season, he extended his championship lead to 26 points with five races down and five remaining.
David Coulthard provided his best performance to date in the DTM to finish in fifth, just ahead of Mike Rockenfeller, who was the first Audi home in sixth.
Andy Priaulx survived contact during the race from his fellow Brit Paffett to finish seventh and score his first points since the season opener at Hockenheim in the Crowne Plaza BMW.
Christian Vietoris was fifth early on in his Mercedes, but succumbed to Paffett after the Brit made his first pitstop, and then had slick tyres fitted in his second stop. Despite the drying track, the former GP2 race winner fell back from fifth to eighth by the end.
Vietoris' fellow Mercedes junior driver Robert Wickens bagged his first DTM points in ninth place, a feat also achieved by BMW's Dirk Werner just behind in tenth.
Filipe Albuquerque, Miguel Molina and Roberto Merhi were both involved throughout the race in some hard-fought battles further down the order, finishing as the first of the lapped runners in 11th, 12th and 13th. Joey Hand reported struggles with his tyres throughout the race on his way to 14th.
Audi rookie Adrien Tambay had an eventful race, being spun around by Merhi early on before later colliding with Susie Wolff and receiving a drive-through penalty as he finished two laps down in 15th.
After qualifying ahead only of Rahel Frey, things didn't get any better in the race for double champion Timo Scheider as he struggled to 16th to end what he described as “no doubt the worst weekend I've ever had in the DTM.” He did at least beat Frey home.
Further technical issues caused Schumacher to retire, joining Spielberg winner Edoardo Mortara who struggled after sustaining damage when he ran into the start incident, which also claimed Farfus and Ekstrom, while Wolff's race ended shortly after she was punted by Tambay.
The drivers take to the Olympic Stadium in Munich for the show event on 14-15 July, before returning to racing at the Nurburgring on 19 August.
It seems that even when he’s facing the wrong way at the first corner, there’s no stopping Gary Paffett in 2012.