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Schumacher's home town celebrates

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Last updated on: October 12, 2003 18:08 IST
Michael Schumacher's home fans, up before dawn to watch the Japanese Grand Prix on big screens, yelled and cheered in delight after the German driver won a record-breaking sixth world championship on Sunday.

Wearing Ferrari red and waving giant Ferrari flags, the fans were packed sardine-style into a sports arena in his Rhineland home town.

"It's just insane, just totally unbelievable," said Lukas Czarnetzki, 23, who cried tears of joy. "I've never seen anything like this. Schumi's the greatest of all time."

Schumacher, 34, left the working class town in 1994 and now lives in Switzerland but Kerpen has turned itself into a giant red-coloured shrine for its famous son and is known throughout Germany as "Schumi Town."

"If we couldn't be there in person to cheer him on being here with all the fans was the next best thing," said Peter Breuer, 45, a Kerpen carpenter.

Breuer arrived at 4 a.m. to watch the broadcast which was punctuated by deafening cheers and fog horn blasts every time Schumacher moved up a place but also groans of nervous despair when he fell back.

Schumacher needed just an eighth place finish to win the title and got the one point he needed.


Horst Korn, 50, said almost the whole town was up before dawn to watch the race.

"I couldn't sleep at all I was so nervous," said the gardener. "He's deeply embedded in all our hearts. He's the best and he's got the best team."

Some 30,000 visitors were jammed into Kerpen, a former mining town to take part in festivities and kart races on the streets in the centre of town. A parade of honking cars drove down main street shortly after the race.

"Kerpen and Michael Schumacher are linked inextricably together even though he lives in Switzerland now," said Kerpen mayor Ralf Valkysers, watching the revellers toasting Schumacher with raised beer glasses.

"The whole town is euphoric...we hope to get him here for a victory celebration within the next few days."

Schumacher grew up in Kerpen and his father runs the Michael Schumacher Kart Centre and museum on the edge of town, which many hundreds of fans visited on Saturday.

Erik Kirschbaum
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