Audi Sport on success track
Ingolstadt -- In the hot phase of the 2008 motorsport season Audi again underlined their "Vorsprung durch Technik" last weekend with two victories linked to "Le Mans" -- in the DTM and in the American Le Mans Series. In the year of the company's most extensive motorsport programme ever the motorsport squad headed by Dr Wolfgang Ullrich thus has the chance to achieve a historically outstanding tally of success in the sport.
On a single weekend, Audi clinches two victories that are linked to the magic name of Le Mans. At the French "Circuit Bugatti", at the tenth race of the DTM, Audi factory driver Mattias Ekstrom in the A4 DTM crosses the finish line in first place with a 4.25-second lead. The day before, Dindo Capello/Allan McNish/Emanuele Pirro in the Audi R10 TDI at the "Petit Le Mans" race at Road Atlanta in the U.S. state of Georgia have already clinched victory ahead of rival Peugeot after a remarkable recovery.
The two events have notable parallels: in both cases Audi's victories are associated with "Le Mans", in both cases the respective main rival is defeated in a direct fight -- in the DTM it is overall runner-up Paul di Resta in the Mercedes, in the ALMS it is Peugeot. And in both cases Audi's advantage is a little more than four seconds. What is more, in the USA the Audi R10 TDI -- by clinching its third consecutive victory -- celebrates the hat-trick at the "Petit Le Mans" race after the sportscar has already achieved the hat-trick in June at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And with his 13th DTM race victory at Le Mans Mattias Ekstrom strengthens his position as the most successful Audi DTM driver of all time. It is the third single victory of last year's champion in the 2008 season. No other driver has been as successful as Ekstrom this year -- if anything, this tally can be equalised by other drivers at the finale.
Vorsprung durch Technik: The newly designed Audi A4 DTM (internal project name "R14") in its debut year has been the most successful car of the season so far. Five of ten possible victories, 16 podium places and seven pole positions mean that Audi has already been experiencing its most successful season in the new DTM since its entry in 2004 -- with one more race to go at Hockenheim, which opens up the opportunity for further top achievements.
This means that, for the first time in the new DTM, Audi keeps its chance to successfully defend the title open all the way up to the finale. The basis for this has been created by another special performance, delivered by Timo Scheider. The 29-year-old Audi factory driver, who was signed in 2006 and climbed up in the ranks last year to drive his first car of the current season, achieves a proud interim tally before the finale. After Audi has clinched a one-two-three victory led by Mattias Ekstrom at the Hockenheim season opener, Scheider claims his first DTM triumph and takes the lead at Oschersleben -- and won't relinquish it again up to the finale. In the past five years, no other driver has been continually heading the DTM standings for such a long time. Before, only Laurent Aiello, in 2002, prevailed in front from the beginning to the end -- and became champion in the Abt-Audi TT-R.
The chances for Audi to be successful at Hockenheim are good from a statistical perspective: the Audi A4 DTM has won two of the past three races at Hockenheim -- the season openers in 2007 and 2008, respectively. At the 2007 finale, Audi clinched the title there.
The basic mathematical constellation is certainly comparable: before the end of the year Mattias Ekstrom travelled to Hockenheim with a two-point advantage over Mercedes driver Bruno Spengler -- and won his second DTM title. Timo Scheider comes to the finale with a two-point lead as well -- he is ranked in front of Mercedes driver Paul di Resta. Twelve months ago, 152,000 spectators witnessed the finale -- a new record in the DTM.
Should Timo Scheider -- just six months after his first DTM race victory -- secure the sixth title for Audi (following Hans-Joachim Stuck in 1990, Frank Biela in 1991, Laurent Aiello in 2002 as well as Mattias Ekstrom in 2004 and 2007) another top mark would have been achieved. The squad of Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, who has been Head of Audi Motorsport for 15 years, has achieved three of its four major objectives in what has so far been the brand's most comprehensive motorsport commitment as a manufacturer: winning the LM P1 classification in the American Le Mans Series with Marco Werner/Lucas Luhr, winning the European-based Le Mans Series with Alexandre Premat/Mike Rockenfeller as well as claiming victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Tom Kristensen/Dindo Capello/Allan McNish -- each time with the Audi R10 TDI diesel-powered sportscar. Hopeful prerequisites for a historic finale at Hockenheim.