Mattias Ekstrom put on a show of strength at the Hockenheimring today in his Team Abt Audi A4, taking victory in the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) season opener, at the front of an Audi 1-2-3 finish. Mattias EkstrÃ¶m, Audi Sport...
Mattias Ekstrom put on a show of strength at the Hockenheimring today in his Team Abt Audi A4, taking victory in the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) season opener, at the front of an Audi 1-2-3 finish.
Ekstrom started the race from the front row, having been nipped to the pole by teammate Timo Scheider. However, at the standing start, Ekstrom was on his way to the lead and made it around the first turn at the front of the field.
He was not to be passed on the track; the only time Ekstrom lost the lead was during two scheduled pit stops. However, Scheider stayed close behind the entire race, ready to play wingman to his teammate if the need arose.
"The car was simply fantastic," the young Swede smiled at the finish. "I was able to really enjoy the race because the car did everything I expect a racing car to do. In the end, we clinched places one to three, which is great for the team. I think after such a good weekend, we definitely deserved this result."
Scheider, who had followed Ekstrom into the first turn, stayed close, though not quite bumper-to-bumper, and finished just 0.824 seconds behind.
"Except for my start, my race was perfect," he explained. "I had a bit too much wheel spin, that's why Mattias passed me. I wasn't able to follow him too closely because my car would have had more understeer in that case. The car was good enough for winning the race."
Tom Kristensen, showed that he is now fully recovered from the huge shunt he suffered at the last DTM season's opener, also at the Hockenheimring. With another chance to open a DTM championship account, he did it in style with a podium finish, though 20 seconds off Ekstrom's pace.
Kristensen started from fifth position, behind two Mercedes rivals -- Bruno Spengler in third and Paul di Resta in fourth -- with Jamie Green behind him in yet another Mercedes C-class. Spengler, di Resta and Kristensen held position at the start, getting cleanly through the first few turns.
"Today, I started from the same position as in last year's season opener in which I had my big accident," the Le Mans legend recounted. "I was happy that it all went well through the first few corners."
With di Resta passing Spengler through the first pit stops, it was Spengler that Kristensen set his sights on. But while he was unable to make his way past the Canadian on the track, his second pit stop was perfect, and he just edged his rival out of the pit lane. With di Resta stalling his engine during the pit stop, Kristensen was now third, with Spengler fourth.
"Having started from fifth position on the grid, it was clear to me that I'd have to fight in a Mercedes sandwich," Kristensen recounted. "My crew had a good strategy and performed an excellent pit stop. When I left the pit lane, I fought for half a lap with Bruno Spengler before I was able to get away. A great feeling! But my two team-mates were already too far away at that point so that I took it easier, something I've never done before in the DTM. Places one to three on our rival's home circuit - that's a great feeling."
Behind them, Martin Tomczyk was on the prowl, the Audi DTM veteran looking to make it a 1-2-3-4 lockout for the Ingolstadt marque. Tomczyk, who had started seventh and due to a poor start was running ninth on the first lap but had worked his way back up the order, making it to fifth by the second set of pit stops.
It was edge-of-the-seat stuff in the dying laps of the race, the German hanging onto the rear bumper of his Canadian rival's Mercedes, and looking for a way past. Spengler held on tight, though, and on the final lap as Tomczyk made one last desperate attempt, the Audi ran wide and off the racing line allowing Spengler to clinch fourth. Even so, Kristensen, Spengler and Tomczyk were separated by less than 1.7 seconds at the finish.
"I am disappointed, because I had aimed for a podium finish," Spengler rued the result at the finish. "I lacked grip and therefore it was difficult to catch up with the Audis. In these circumstances, fourth place is still OK."
Ralf Schumacher made his DTM debut, finishing 14th for Mercedes after crashing into Christijan Albers' Audi at the start, while Champ Car refugee Katherine Legge took 18th in her first start in the series.
"Starting with the completely new developed Audi A4 DTM after the winter break was a difficult task. Nobody would have expected us to strike like this on a circuit that used to be Mercedes territory. I want to really thank Audi and the Abt squad for this brilliant feat. They laid the foundation for what we achieved today," said Legge.