Mattias Ekström clinches podium for Audi
• Second place at the DTM season opener at Hockenheim
• Three Audi A4 DTM cars on top five positions
• Martin Tomczyk is best driver of a year-old car
Ingolstadt/Hockenheim, May 1, 2011 - 58,000 spectators (throughout the weekend) at the Hockenheimring saw a thrilling DTM season opener and an impressive performance by Audi driver Mattias Ekström. Just 73 days after he broke his left wrist in a sporting accident the Swede clinched second place and thus a podium result for Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline.
With three Audi A4 DTM cars on the top five positions the brand with the four rings achieved a clearly better start into the season than last year when not a single Audi driver mounted the podium. In addition to Mattias Ekström, Timo Scheider and Martin Tomczyk shone in particular. They saw the checkered flag on positions four and five, just barely missing the podium.
For many fans, the hero of the race was Mattias Ekström. The Swede had not even been sure about being able to pull through the entire 37-lap race distance at the Hockenheimring. But the two-time DTM champion gritted his teeth and brought his Audi A4 DTM across the finish line as the runner-up. "Toward the end I was beginning to lose some of the strength in my left hand," said Ekström. "I’m glad to have made it."
The Swede had even taken the lead after a good start but was overtaken on the outside of the track in turn one by Bruno Spengler. After a safety car period Ekström did not completely agree with the behavior of the subsequent winner either: "Bruno hit the brakes before the re-start. He was the quicker driver today, but this type of thing shouldn’t happen."
On the last race lap Ekström had another moment of shock: "I felt like I was having a puncture of the left rear tire and almost had a heart attack. After the race it turned out that I had a defect on the rear suspension."
Ekström was able to bring the car safely across the line in a photo finish barely ahead of Ralf Schumacher who made a mistake on the final lap and was almost intercepted by Audi driver Timo Scheider. The two-time DTM champion missed the podium by just 0.671 seconds.
Martin Tomczyk drove a strong race as well. He finished his first run for Audi Sport Team Phoenix in fifth place and thus as the best driver of a year-old car. Tomczyk through no fault of his own triggered a safety car period because the fuel can got stuck on his Audi A4 DTM during the second pit stop and subsequently fell onto the track.
The safety car period deprived several other drivers of better positions because they had not yet made their second pit stop - particularly Mike Rockenfeller, who had to stop for the red light at the pit lane exit and dropped to eleventh place. Edoardo Mortara (Audi Sport Team Rosberg) as well was thus bumped out of the top ten. His team-mate Filipe Albuquerque had to sit a drive-through penalty after failing to notice the red light at the pit lane exit. Before the incident he had been turned around by a rival in the hairpin.
Miguel Molina was another driver to suffer misfortune. After his mechanics had worked late into the night replacing the entire cable harness of his Audi A4 after electronic problems in qualifying. He was running in the points before being attacked by Gary Paffett and subsequently turned around by Oliver Jarvis in an unfortunate incident.
A solid performance was shown by Rahel Frey. The young Swiss drove a flawless race on her DTM debut, which she finished in 15th place.
"Naturally, I’d have been happier with first place," said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich after the season opener. "But only one driver can finish at the top. This time, unfortunately, it wasn’t us. Next time we want to be at the very front. We’ve fought with our rivals on an equal footing. The opening round has confirmed that we can expect a very exciting, well-balanced DTM season."
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport):
The safety car mixed up the situation quite a bit - but that’s part of racing
"At the race today we’ve seen a similar picture as we did yesterday in qualifying. Bruno Spengler was just a little bit faster. Behind him the whole field was very close together. Mattias (Ekström) and Timo (Scheider) squeezed the maximum out of their potential. Martin (Tomczyk) was very quick in his year-old car too. Naturally, the safety car mixed up the situation quite a bit - but that’s part of racing. All in all, it was an interesting opening round which promises an exciting season."
Mattias Ekström (Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #8), 2nd place
"Obviously, winning feels better than anything else. Today we achieved second place - that’s nearly perfect, but not completely. We had a car to be in contention for victory - particularly after my good start. But Bruno (Spengler) simply overtook me flat-out on the outside of turn one alongside the track. I was running flat-out too but he had more momentum that way and was able to pass me again. I didn’t think that this was okay. It was the crucial moment of the race because we were almost equally quick. Toward the end the situation became really exciting once more. A few turns before the finish something broke on my rear suspension. But this time I was luckier than in the years before - maybe that’s a good omen for the 2011 season."
Timo Scheider (AUTO TEST Audi A4 DTM #4), 4th place
I’m pretty happy to have finished in fourth place
"P4 is a result I can live with today. Right at the start I had body contact at the rear when I was pushed against the car in front of me. As a result, the front of my car was damaged. At the rear I lost a few flics. That was not helpful for balance. That’s why I’m pretty happy to have finished in fourth place."
Martin Tomczyk (Schaeffler Audi A4 DTM #14), 5th place
"We were competitive this weekend from the outset. The driver, the car and the team - all three of these have always got to fit together. This was definitely the case here. It was also huge fun to be driving a DTM race again, particularly the overtaking maneuvers I had. The duel with Maro (Engel) was tough but friendly. I feel that that’s the way a fight between two rivals in the DTM should be. The duel with Ralf (Schumacher) was fair too. It was a good start that we can be happy with."
Oliver Jarvis (Audi Sport performance cars A4 DTM #5), 9th place
"This wasn’t the start I’d been hoping for. We wanted to score points and fight for a podium position but we finished in ninth place. It was an improvement over our qualifying performance. But now we’ve got to work hard and make fewer mistakes in the next race. Hankook have done a good job, but I’ve got to gain a better understanding of the tires. I’m hoping that we can be stronger at Zandvoort."
Mike Rockenfeller (E-POSTBRIEF Audi A4 DTM #9), 11th place
"The weekend had started out well. Practice was okay. Position five in qualifying wasn’t perfect but it was a good starting base. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do you any good if you go home empty-handed. That’s why my race was disappointing from start to finish. Nothing seemed to really fit. The main problem: I was much too slow, which bothers me the most. At the first pit stop something went wrong. The car wasn’t lowered properly. I also hit the safety car period at an unfortunate point in time. I had to stop at the red light. A weekend to forget."
Edoardo Mortara (Playboy Audi A4 DTM #19), 14th place
"My first race in the DTM was marked by many difficulties. But I’m glad to have finished it. We had communications problems and I wasn’t able to listen to the team radio. The safety car was on the track when I had to pit, that was a bit unfortunate. We’ve got to be satisfied. The race was okay. We know that kinds of problems we had. Without these difficulties we can drive a better race."
Rahel Frey (Glamour Audi A4 DTM #15), 15th place
"My assessment after the first race is very positive. The teamwork is fantastic, the guys support me. The race had ups and downs but basically I pulled through and achieved my goal. I’m happy."
Miguel Molina (Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #22), 16th place
"The race wasn’t so bad. I started from position eight and fought for seventh place. After the re-start following the safety car period I was hit and spun so that my race was over. Now we need to fight for the next race. Fortunately, the next round is coming up in just two weeks from now."
Filipe Albuquerque (TV Movie Audi A4 DTM #18), 17th place "I had a very good start and was able to make up some positions. But then I lost some places in the commotion. It was very tight, door to door, someone brushed me. After the safety car period Vietoris touched me, which cost me a lot of time. At least I did finish the race. It was a very tough race. We collected kilometers. That was a positive thing here. But we need a lot more speed."
Hans-Jürgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline):
"This wasn’t bad for a season opener. It was a tough race. We tried to get everything right. The pit crew did a superb job. The strategy was perfect too. But Mercedes didn’t make a single mistake either. Congratulations to Bruno Spengler, he drove a great race. We’re pleased to see that we’re racing at the same pace and are in contention for victory. That was not quite the case last year. Therefore, we’re in for an exciting season."
Ernst Moser (Team Director Audi Sport Team Phoenix):
I’m also pleased with Rahel’s (Frey) performance at her first DTM race
"An optimal start into the season. Martin (Tomczyk) was one of the protagonists of this race. He had some first-class duels. His car was running well. All of our pit stops were very good. At Martin’s second stop we were even a bit too fast and didn’t get the fuel can off the car in time. That’s why Martin went out with the fuel can and dropped from fourth to fifth place. A big ‘well done’ to Martin and the team. I’m also pleased with Rahel’s (Frey) performance at her first DTM race. She finished in 15th place and made no mistakes. Naturally, she still needs to become a bit faster. We’re working on that."
Arno Zensen (Team Director Audi Sport Team Rosberg):
"I was quite happy that we started among the top ten with one car. Edoardo Mortara’s start was pretty decent. He came out of the first lap on position nine and did a pretty good job of defending his place. He was fighting a fair duel with Gary Paffett for a long time. I was pretty pleased. But then we encountered a communications problem. We didn’t know at which point in time the radio was still working. When we were trying to call Edoardo in during the safety car period he couldn’t hear us. He kept on driving, that meant his race was over. Filipe Albuquerque didn’t have a bad start either but was forced into the grass. When his tires were dirty he was overtaken and running in the penultimate position. Then he ran a red light after a pit stop. Although that’s unfortunate and shouldn’t happen it has happened to others before. Now we’ve got to close the book on it and continue the performance we showed during the tests."
Source: Audi Motorsport