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Schneider and Team AMG-Mercedes Sweep FIA GT Championships

26 October 1997

Schneider and Team AMG-Mercedes Sweep FIA GT Championships Silver Arrows Enjoy Victories in GT and Formula One Season Finales

    MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 26 -- Bernd Schneider drove his
Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR to victory in the FIA GT Championship season finale at
Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif., claiming the driver's championship
for himself and the team title for AMG-Mercedes.  The win, Mercedes' sixth of
the 11-race FIA GT season, concluded a highly successful weekend for the
legendary Silver Arrows, as McLaren-Mercedes drivers Mika Hakkinen and David
Coulthard finished one-two in the Formula One season finale at Jerez, Spain,
earlier today.
    "First of all, I have to say 'Thank you' to the team," said Schneider.
"After the end of ITC (International Touring Car Championship), nobody was
sure what we would do.  When the decision to do GT was made, I thought we were
going to miss the first few races, but the team managed to get the car ready
for Friday morning before the first race.  We took the pole at that race and
from then on were competitive.  Of course the one-two finish in F-1 for Mika
and David was a big motivation for us today.  Congratulations to the whole
Team AMG-Mercedes, and thanks to Bridgestone, who did a super job this year."

    Adding to a Century of Racing History
    Sunday marked one of the most historic days in the more than 100 years of
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport tradition.  This weekend's win was the third 1997
season finale victory for Mercedes-Benz.  Mark Blundell won the last race of
the PPG CART World Series season a month ago at the new California Speedway.
In addition to ending the season in victory lane in each of the three
categories it contested this year, Mercedes scored 18 wins in a total of 55
races, meaning the manufacturer won 32-percent of the races it entered this
    The FIA GT Driver's and Team Championships are the second and third
international racing titles for the three-pointed star in 1997; Mercedes
clinched the CART Manufacturer's Championship here at Laguna Seca in early

    Pole Position to Victory
    The three-car, six-driver AMG-Mercedes team swept the top three positions
on the starting grid with Alexander Wurz qualifying first -- giving the
Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR its eighth pole position of the season -- Schneider
second and Alessandro Nannini third.
    Porsche driver Alan McNish slipped into the lead at the start of the
three-hour contest, with Schneider, Wurz, Yannick Dalmas and Nannini following
closely.  At the end of the first hour, however, Schneider pitted, changing
places with co-driver Klaus Ludwig.  Deciding not to change tires, Ludwig
returned to the circuit with the race lead.  The #11 CLK-GTR regained its
place at the head of the field following the final stop, when Schneider again
took over driving duties, and held on to win by more than 18 seconds.
    Wurz ran third for the early stages until a GT-2 Class Porsche knocked him
off course, forcing a lengthy pit stop, which dropped him back to 25th.  Wurz
made up nine positions before handing off to co-driver and Mercedes-Benz CART
star Greg Moore, who continued the charge through the field, moving up to
eighth before returning the car to Wurz.
    Nannini, too, had his race interrupted.  A shock absorber leaked oil,
causing a fire and a long pit stop.  But the Team AMG-Mercedes crew made
repairs, and Nannini and co-driver Marcel Tiemann recovered to finish ninth.
    Schneider finished the series 13 points ahead of championship rivals J.J.
Lehto and Steve Soper, with Lehto's McLaren-BMW succumbing to mechanical
problems and Soper, delayed by contact with another car, finishing the race
12th.  Ludwig finished the season ranked fourth, and Tiemann and Nannini tied
for fifth.  AMG-Mercedes bested Team BMW Motorsport by a margin of 25 points.

SOURCE  Mercedes-Benz