|A fan holding a Michael Schumacher doll reacts
while watching the Japanese Grand Prix. Schumacher dropped out in
the 37th lap with a blown engine.|
Michael Schumacher fans who crowded into a sports arena before dawn on
Sunday hoping to celebrate their home town hero's eighth world
championship were crushed when his engine and title hopes went up in
Schumacher was leading the Japanese Grand Prix and closing in on his
eighth Formula One championship when he was suddenly forced to retire with
engine failure that all but eliminated his title chances in the final year
of his career.
The party atmosphere in
Kerpen, a small town near Cologne where Schumacher grew
up, came to an abrupt and bitter end when hundreds of fans watching TV
monitors saw smoke pouring out of Schumacher's Ferrari 17 laps from the finish.
There was a collective gasp of disbelief at Schumacher's premature exit
and then the tears began to flow.
"It's not his fault," said Reiner Ferling, a 54-year-old taxi driver
choking back tears in the arena where thousands of Schumacher fans have
traditionally gathered to celebrate his key victories in previous
"He did as well as he could but now our world has collapsed. It's very
emotional, I can't describe it."
Schumacher, 37, left the working class town in 1994 and now lives in
Switzerland. Kerpen was a coal mining town but that industry disappeared
Kerpen later reinvented itself as a centre for logistics and into a
giant shrine for its most famous son and is known throughout Germany as
"Schumi Town". The town has a "Michael Schumacher Kart Centre" and a
"World of the Schumachers" museum.
Gabi Jinktner, a 45-year-old secretary holding a Schumacher doll in her
arms, was in tears.
"I'm not going to watch Formula One anymore," she said. "It's not his
fault the engine failed. He's the best driver ever. I can't bear to watch
it anymore without him in it."