Bruno Spengler and BMW snatched the DTM title out of Gary Paffett's hands by winning an ultra-tense season finale at Hockenheim.
Spengler's title success capped an incredible season for BMW and Schnitzer, both of whom returned to the championship this year after a 20-year absence. The key to the Canadian's race was a great getaway from third on the grid as he passed the slow-starting Paffett to slot in behind polesitter Augusto Farfus.
While Paffett dropped from second to fourth, Spengler was gifted the lead by fellow BMW man Farfus at the Mercedes Arena on the opening lap.
HWA driver Paffett climbed to third when Mattias Ekstrom – who had already hit Joey Hand at Turn 1 – pushed the American and himself wide at the Spitzkehre. The Briton then passed Farfus during the first round of pit stops to climb to second, escaping censure from the race officials despite being initially investigated for an unsafe release from his pit stall that resulted in him and his rival running side-by-side momentarily.
Paffett put Spengler under immense pressure following the second stops, trimming his deficit from 4.1 seconds to 2.0s within just five laps and then continuing to close until he was within 1.1sec of the black BMW. He could get no closer though and was unable to prevent Spengler from taking his fourth win of 2012 and securing the championship by just four points.
Farfus was a comfortable third in his RBM-run M3 while Jamie Green, the third driver to start the race with a chance of the title, drove superbly to climb from ninth to fourth during the race. His highlight was an excellent move on Hand's RMG BMW at the Spitzkehre during the opening stint.
Dirk Werner made it two Schnitzer cars inside the top five. He passed Edoardo Mortara and Hand at the first round of stops and gained a further spot when Ekstrom retired with a loose right-front wheel.
Mortara was sixth, less than a second ahead of the BMW of the impressive Andy Priaulx, Hand, Ralf Schumacher and Christian Vietoris.
David Coulthard retired from his final DTM race after being spun by Timo Scheider at the Mercedes Arena. The Audi man was given a drive-through penalty for causing the collision.
Adrien Tambay and Mike Rockenfeller both retired early on, each Audi driver a victim of contact, while Miguel Molina's race ended when he slid into the Sachs Kurve gravel at mid-distance.
Results - 42 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Bruno Spengler Schnitzer BMW 1h07m59.069s
2. Gary Paffett HWA Mercedes + 2.214s
3. Augusto Farfus RBM BMW + 11.954s
4. Jamie Green HWA Mercedes + 23.479s
5. Dirk Werner Schnitzer BMW + 25.384s
6. Edoardo Mortara Rosberg Audi + 41.701s
7. Andy Priaulx RBM BMW + 42.265s
8. Joey Hand RMG BMW + 42.843s
9. Ralf Schumacher HWA Mercedes + 43.878s
10. Christian Vietoris HWA Mercedes + 45.138s
11. Filipe Albuquerque Rosberg Audi + 58.232s
12. Timo Scheider Abt Audi + 1m14.020s
13. Susie Wolff Persson Mercedes + 1m35.931s
14. Martin Tomczyk RMG BMW + 1 lap
15. Roberto Merhi Persson Mercedes + 1 lap
16. Rahel Frey Abt Audi + 1 lap
Miguel Molina Phoenix Audi 25 laps
David Coulthard Mucke Mercedes 23 laps
Robert Wickens Mucke Mercedes 20 laps
Mattias Ekstrom Abt Audi 11 laps
Mike Rockenfeller Phoenix Audi 2 laps
Adrien Tambay Abt Audi 1 lap