Mattias Ekstrom secures Audi's fifth victory of the season Ingolstadt/Le Mans -- At Le Mans, Audi celebrated their fifth DTM victory of the season with Mattias Ekstrom, and with Alexandre Premat, at the latter's home race, the first podium...
Mattias Ekstrom secures Audi's fifth victory of the season
Ingolstadt/Le Mans -- At Le Mans, Audi celebrated their fifth DTM victory of the season with Mattias Ekstrom, and with Alexandre Premat, at the latter's home race, the first podium result of a year-old car in the current season. Timo Scheider defended the lead of the standings with a two-point advantage -- the title decision from an extremely thrilling starting base will therefore be made at the finale at Hockenheim three weeks from now. The constantly changing intensity of the rain turned the tenth round into a lottery and thus the most action-packed race of the season so far: only four of the 19 drivers came in for the two mandatory pit stops, all other classified drivers pitted three, and two drivers even as much as four times.
After a brilliant start Timo Scheider on slicks took the lead in the first phase of the race ahead of his brand colleagues Mattias Ekstrom, Alexandre Premat and Mercedes driver Paul di Resta. Up to his first stop on lap eleven the DTM leader was running in front on the Circuit Bugatti when he put on slicks again and the lead went to his team-mate Mattias Ekstrom for six laps. The Swede, who on lap 17, as at the start, received untreaded tyres, took the lead on the 24th lap for the next three.
Then the rain changed in such short cycles that instead of the prescribed two stops a total of three tyre changes, respectively, were required for Ekstrom, Scheider and other Audi drivers.
At his second stop after 26 laps Ekstrom first put on slicks but in heavier rain had to change to wets on lap 31. The Swede, who was visibly weakened by a bout of flu, with a 4.2-second lead celebrated his third victory of the season after his exploits at Hockenheim and Zandvoort. In his DTM career the Swede thus secured as much as his 13th race victory.
Timo Scheider received slicks on lap 27 as well. Minutes later the rain got heavier so that he had to switch back to treaded tyres at a third stop on the 31st lap. Hence Scheider finished sixth in the end. Since the second race of the season at Oschersleben the 29-year-old factory driver has been leading the standings and will travel to the finale at Hockenheim with a two-point advantage over Paul di Resta.
Alexandre Premat in the 2007-spec Audi A4 DTM was the best driver of a year-old car in the group of the front runners. Particularly remarkable was the fact that besides Premat only three other drivers -- including Mike Rockenfeller -- merely changed tyres twice. The Frenchman Premat completed the entire racing distance in most difficult conditions on slicks. In the early phase the 26-year-old thrilled his home audience with strong duels against Mercedes driver Paul di Resta. In the end Premat, after several position changes, prevailed against Mercedes driver Gary Paffett in the fight for the first podium result of a driver of a year-old car in the 2008 season.
Behind Timo Scheider in sixth place a fourth Audi A4 DTM finished in the points: after three stops, Tom Kristensen clinched eighth place in front of Mike Rockenfeller.
Quotes after the race
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "I'm happy about Mattias' victory and Alexandre's third place -- both have shown a strong performance today. After the first third of the race it looked as if Timo could win the title here at Le Mans. But then things didn't go well for him and he was no longer in a position to fight for victory. Now the title decision has been postponed to the finale at Hockenheim, which is great for the spectators. We're now going to concentrate on giving our boys -- as we have in all previous races -- an A4 with which they can fight for the title."
Mattias Ekstrom (Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #1): "This wasn't bad for a sick racer. After I was frustrated with a bout of flu all weekend I'm now totally happy about victory. The race was great and my Audi A4 was running perfectly from the start to the final lap. I couldn't wish for more than this except, of course, that I would have liked still being in the race for the title. The decision has been postponed to the finale. There, we'll be giving everything to clinch the title with Timo for Audi."
Alexandre Premat (Audi Bank/Shell Helix Audi A4 DTM #14): "A fantastic weekend! Standing on the podium at my home race makes me very proud. My team and I gave everything in qualifying and the race and were rewarded by third place. My team did everything right in terms of strategy so that I was able to attack at any time during the race."
Timo Scheider (GW:plus/Top Service Audi A4 DTM #10): "It was the right decision to go into the race with slicks. Advancing from fifth to first is definitely something special. Unfortunately, we timed our second stop two laps too early, that's too bad. We'll chalk this up to experience now and concentrate on the finale."
Tom Kristensen (Audi A4 DTM #9): "We started with a dry set-up, that was the right choice at first. On the first lap I was hit and that caused me to lose a few positions. At my second pit stop I received new slicks. Immediately after that, it started to rain. I wasn't able to warm up this set of tyres, my times hit rock bottom. More than eighth place wasn't possible. Starting from pole apparently doesn't bring me any luck."
Mike Rockenfeller (S line Audi A4 DTM #18): "Like at Barcelona, I was sandwiched at the start and had to lift, otherwise I would have probably passed Tomczyk and Spengler. Shortly after that the two of them got into another tussle, my car was hit in the process and I had to take the emergency exit. All the way from the back I pushed forwards again, but wasn't able to get past Gary Paffett, although I was clearly quicker. I then decided to pit two laps earlier than planned. Unfortunately, the gamble didn't work out if you look where Paffett ended up. That's too bad, but in that kind of weather anything was possible. Congratulations to Alexandre, he showed where you could be today with our car."
Markus Winkelhock (Playboy Audi A4 DTM #19): "My first lap went pretty well and I moved forwards by a few places. It was a good idea to start on slicks. For a long time, I was in a group with Alexandre Premat and didn't take any risks. At the end, we changed to rain tyres once more. That caused me to lose a sure fourth, perhaps even third, place."
Christijan Albers (Audi A4 DTM #21): "We had a very good start. I advanced to ninth place. Then Green hit me and turned me around. Actually, that meant the end of my race even though I was able to continue driving."
Katherine Legge (Audi A4 DTM #20): "That was an action-packed race. Arguably, our tyre decisions were wrong. Whenever we did use the right tyres, the pace was good. That I was pushed into the gravel by Maro Engel was not helpful, unfortunately. Still, I remain positive and have my sights set on the next race."
Oliver Jarvis (Best Buddies Audi A4 DTM #15): "My start was not good because I was standing on a wet line on slicks. But then I managed to make up a few places. I was running in eighth place when Bruno Spengler hit me in the side and ended my race. That was frustrating because I wasn't too far from Alex Premat, who finished on the podium. It could have been a double points exploit for Phoenix."
Martin Tomczyk (Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #2): "Starting on slicks was the right decision. Up to the third turn the start was okay. But there my car started understeering and I slightly touched the rear of Spengler's car. So, I spun because that place was still very slippery. Too bad, because my Audi had the potential to compete at the front of the field."
Hans-Jurgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): "A turbulent race at which the weather did not play into our hands. Particularly at Timo's second stop it would have probably been better to switch to wets. Now we'll need to concentrate on Hockenheim. It will probably be a thrilling and great finale."
Ernst Moser (Team Director Audi Sport Team Phoenix): "I'm overwhelmed that we were able to clinch such a result with a car from last year. In such conditions, this is possible. Alex Premat drove a flawless race despite all these weather changes. All of us are happy about the podium result. Too bad that Oliver had an accident, things were going well for him too. Still, the team achieved a result that makes us incredibly happy."
Arno Zensen (Team Director Audi Sport Team Rosberg): "That was a turbulent race. Out two drivers had a good start. 'Rocky' was in a sandwich and bumped straight at the start. That practically ended his race. Markus had the misfortune that Oliver Jarvis got in his way at the pit stop, which cost a few seconds. Consequently, he stayed behind Premat."