The art of being in front - Audi is the hunted in the DTM Ingolstadt, April 17, 2010 - Finally, the time has come: exactly 183 days after the 2009 finale that proved to be a triumphant one for Audi, the starting lights in the DTM are switching...
The art of being in front - Audi is the hunted in the DTM
Ingolstadt, April 17, 2010 - Finally, the time has come: exactly 183 days after the 2009 finale that proved to be a triumphant one for Audi, the starting lights in the DTM are switching to green again. On April 25, the new DTM season will start at the Hockenheimring.
Audi will arrive at Hockenheim as the squad to be hunted. The brand with the four rings last won the season opener in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg three consecutive times - and in the end took the champion's title three times in a row as well. No automobile manufacturer in DTM history has ever managed this feat before.
Still, the brand's aims for 2010 are equally ambitious. "After the season, we want to be all the way in front again," says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. Michael Dick, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at Audi, adds: "That we have won three consecutive titles and are thus the record holder in the DTM does fill us with a certain amount of pride but makes us no less hungry for further victories. Our drivers and teams will give everything to continue last year's exploits, with all their heart and passion."
This will be no mean feat because the DTM issued a ban on developments in the interest of maximum efficiency.
For DTM fans this means that the entire field of entrants will be similarly close as last year. Perhaps even closer because the vehicles of the older generation will receive an even greater weight advantage than before - and they definitely made good use of it as early as during the official DTM tests at Valencia. The fastest Audi driver in the tests was the 21-year-old Spaniard Miguel Molina, the only newcomer to the Audi driver squad.
The Technical Regulations of the DTM do not allow much leeway. But despite the constraints, Audi Sport has continually managed to stay a small step ahead of its rivals with the A4 in recent years. Will the squad succeed in this endeavor again this year? "We were only able to try out combinations with existing components," explains Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "And that's what we did. I hope that we've again made a few steps in the right direction. The first races will show how big these steps have been."
In any event, the Audi drivers are looking forward to the season opener with eager anticipation. "I'm dying for the season to get underway," says Mattias Ekstrom, the 2004 and 2007 DTM champion and winner of the season openers in 2007 and 2008. "Hockenheim is always a great track to start the season."
Title defender Timo Scheider is already thinking a step further - namely title number three: "This sounds easier than it is. But as a two-time champion that's the only aim you can have!"
Mattias Ekstrom: the man to beat at Hockenheim
For years, he has been setting the benchmark at Hockenheim: Mattias Ekstrom. In 2007 and 2008 the Swede from Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline won the season opener at the Hockenheimring in the Audi A4 DTM. In 2009 he was again commandingly leading the race when a puncture cost him the well-deserved victory two laps before the end of the race - which marked the beginning of a nearly incredible streak of mishaps which deprived Ekstrom of the chance to win the title last year.
In 2009 he proved again that he is the man to beat on the 4.574-kilometer race track when he clinched the pole position at the finale. But in a collision with Gary Paffett the radiator of his A4 was damaged. Instead of ten points Ekstrom merely took a total of two at Hockenheim.
He is determined that this year will be different. The Swede who defeated Michael Schumacher at the finale of the "Race of Champions" in Beijing last winter hopes to have put all the misfortune of the past season behind him and has prepared for the new season even more vigorously than ever before. "The competition in the DTM will even be tougher this year," he believes. "That's why I've left nothing to chance."
Katherine Legge: driver's representative on FIA commission
For Katherine Legge, the Hockenheimring will mark the beginning of a new stage in her career. The only woman to have managed setting a fastest race lap in the "new" DTM so far will compete for Audi Sport Team Rosberg - which means that she will also be tackling her third DTM season in a new team. Legge received the vehicle previously driven by Mike Rockenfeller and is hoping for a good result. "Hockenheim is the track on which I've driven most of my kilometers in DTM races and experience is simply a huge factor," says the Briton who lives in Switzerland.
The 29-year-old recently assumed a function with the FIA as well. As driver's representative on the newly formed Women & Motor Sport Commission (WMC) whose President is the former Audi "factory" driver Michèle Mouton, her job will be to help strengthen the role of women in motorsport.
"It's a great honor for me to work for the FIA and I think that the campaign will really help improve the position of women in the motorsport industry, not only with respect to us as racers but in all areas. We will drive this effort forward."
Other topics of the weekend
- Who has done the best job during the winter despite the development
- How strong will the 2008-spec vehicles be with less weight?
- How will the new Dunlop tires work?
- How good will "Magic" Miguel Molina be on his DTM debut?
- How will Oliver Jarvis be doing in the current Audi A4 DTM?
Quotes by the officials
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "We're all looking forward to contesting races again. It's exciting to develop a race car in winter. But it doesn't compare with the tension and the emotions that go along with a race. We already felt that at Le Castellet when we won the season opener of the Le Mans Series with our new R15 plus. And that'll be the same at the DTM season opener at Hockenheim. In view of the high level of our rivals I expect a very tough year full of battles in the DTM."
Hans-Jurgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): "We're very happy that things are finally starting again after the long winter. We've intensely prepared ourselves. The whole squad is again starting to the season with ambitious aims, so the season opener is particularly important, as it always is. Although 2010 is already our eleventh DTM season the butterflies in the stomach before the first race are just the same as in all the years before. I suppose the DTM fans feel the same."
Ernst Moser (Team Director Audi Sport Team Phoenix): "The team and I feel the same: finally, we're starting to race again! As the saying goes, 'the storm follows the calm'. I'm really excited about the first race at Hockenheim. We're pleased with the rating of the 2008-spec vehicles and the weight advantage of 25 kilograms. The tests at Valencia went well too. With Alex (Premat) and Mike (Rockenfeller) we've got two youngsters with lots of experience, though. What more do we want?"
Arno Zensen (Team Director Audi Sport Team Rosberg): "It's great that the winter break which never seems to end in the DTM is over now. We're hot about the first race! We look forward to the new challenge. With Katherine Legge we've got a lady driving for us for the first time in the DTM. And since no woman has clinched a point yet in the new DTM, this is clearly our goal for 2010. The test with her at Valencia was really promising and she feels totally in her element with us. Markus Winkelhock was the second-best driver of a year-old Audi last year. The best one, Oliver Jarvis, is now driving a current car, so it's Markus' job to take his place in 2010."
Facts and quotes by the Audi drivers
Mattias Ekstrom (31/S), Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #5 (Audi Sport Team Abt
- Is now tackling his tenth DTM season
- Commandingly won the 2007 and 2008 DTM openers and lost victory in 2009 only on the penultimate lap due to a puncture
"I can hardly wait for the action to start. Hockenheim is always a great track to start the season on. This time, Hockenheim is really special for me: I'm starting my tenth DTM season and my tenth with Audi and Team Abt Sportsline. It still seems like yesterday that I started my DTM career, at Hockenheim in 2001."
Oliver Jarvis (26/GB), Tabac Original Audi A4 DTM #2 (Audi Sport Team
- Clinched his first DTM podium last year at Hockenheim
- Contests is his first race in a current-generation Audi A4 DTM
- Competes with the colors of Tabac Original for the first time
"My DTM career began at Hockenheim too. In 2008, I qualified for eighth place in the quickest year-old car, in 2009, I was on the podium. So Hockenheim is obviously the best track for me to start the season! I'm very excited about my first DTM race for my new team."
Katherine Legge (29/GB), Glamour Audi A4 DTM #15 (Audi Sport Team
- Clinched her best DTM result at Hockenheim last year
- First race for her new team (Rosberg)
- Advertises "30 Jahre quattro" ("30 Years of quattro")
"New year, new team, same track, same car: I'm already familiar with some of the conditions at the beginning of my third year for Audi in the DTM. But a few things are brand new. Hockenheim is the track on which I've driven most of my kilometers in DTM races and experience is simply a huge factor. I've really gelled with Audi Sport Team Rosberg and look forward to this new start."
Miguel Molina (21/E), Audi Bank A4 DTM #18 (Audi Sport Rookie Team Abt)
- The first DTM race for the young Spaniard
- The first Spanish driver in DTM history
- Was the fastest Audi driver in pre-season tests at Valencia
- At the age of 21, is the youngest Audi driver
"For me, almost everything will be new at Hockenheim. I'm experiencing my DTM debut, I'm driving my first ever touring car race, and on a track that I don't know. And obviously I'm competing for a team that's new to me. The tests with the Audi A4 DTM went well, but when things really get started now, I'll be in for an intense period of learning."
Alexandre Premat (28/F), TV Movie Audi A4 DTM #9 (Audi Sport Team
- Is concentrating on the DTM for the first time in 2010
- Plans to marry his partner Cleo in summer
- Has a new main sponsor: TV Movie
"I've still got fond and very fresh memories of Hockenheim: last year I clinched fourth place there as my best result of the season. Hockenheim is a demanding track with many fast places but also some very slow corners. And for the fans the track is incredibly beautiful, particularly the Motodrom is quite an experience."
Mike Rockenfeller (26/D), S line Audi A4 DTM #10 (Audi Sport Team
- Only Audi-DTM driver with a double program (DTM/Le Mans)
- Competes for Team Phoenix for the first time after three years with Audi Sport Team Rosberg
- Won the Le Mans Series in 2008 together with Alexandre Premat
"Everyone obviously wants to know how they are ranked at the season opener. Cockpits have been re-assigned; the cars have been rated differently than before. I look forward to my first start with Audi Sport Team Phoenix. The crowd is traditionally tremendous. And competing in front of a full house is always a fantastic experience, even for a seasoned campaigner."
Timo Scheider (31/D), GW:plus/Top Service Audi A4 DTM #1 (Audi Sport Team
- Contests his 99th DTM race at Hockenheim
- Has not been able to win the season opener yet
- Like Mattias Ekstrom and Martin Tomczyk, is tackling his 10th DTM season
"Going to Hockenheim is always really special. Not only because every DTM season has started there for the past ten years. For me, the overwhelming emotions of my title wins in the past two years are tied to this track. I'm happy to be starting into the season there as the title defender for the second time."
Martin Tomczyk (28/D), Red Bull Cola Audi A4 DTM #6 (Audi Sport Team Abt
- Has lost five kilograms of weight in winter
- Is tackling his tenth DTM season
"I feel better prepared than ever before because I've changed a few things and trained a lot. It'll be very interesting to see the relative strengths in the DTM field. On the one hand there have been no changes due to the ban on technical development but on the other each team manages to find some nuances in the set-up after all. And we'll be driving with modified tires from Dunlop. I'm eager to see how all these factors will play out in the field."
Markus Winkelhock (29/D), Playboy/GW:plus Audi A4 DTM #14 (Audi Sport
- By clinching fourth place at the Hockenheim season opener, achieved his best DTM result so far
- Has a new team-mate: Katherine Legge
"Hockenheim is my home round. I live only 110 kilometers from there. The layout of the track has always suited me well. When my Uncle Jockel was still driving in the DTM my favorite place as a fan was in the stands along the Sachs corner. That's still one of the nicest places for spectators."