The crowds were on their feet at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz as the battle of the young guns provided a thriller of a race. Mercedes' Gary Paffett took his second win of the season, after starting seventh on the grid, ahead of Audi's Mattias EkstrÃ¶m...
The crowds were on their feet at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz as the battle of the young guns provided a thriller of a race. Mercedes' Gary Paffett took his second win of the season, after starting seventh on the grid, ahead of Audi's Mattias Ekstr?m and the Mercedes of Christijan Albers. The three youngsters fought tooth and nail all through the race to give the fans some spectacular entertainment.
However, Paffett was subsequently disqualified as his car ran out of fuel on his warm down lap and also because he got out of the car. DMSB (governing body) rules state a car must have at least 1.5 lites of fuel left at the end of the race -- which the Mercedes didn't -- and the driver must stay in the car until it reaches parc ferme. Ekstr?m was therefore declared the winner, Albers second and Bernd Schneider third. Mercedes will appeal the decision.
Paffett flew off the grid at the start and he and teammate Jean Alesi, who was third, had a spot of pushing and shoving at the first corner. There was contact and it produced a bottleneck that saw those behind have problems. Opel's Timo Scheider spun, teammate Heinz-Harald Frentzen hit the wall and two other Opels, Peter Dumbreck and Manuel Reuter, had to take avoiding action.
Pole sitter Albers and Ekstr?m also went for it through turn one but escaped unscathed, Ekstr?m ending up in the lead from Paffett and Albers, who had gone wide through the next corner, followed by the Mercedes of Bernd Schneider. Alesi dropped back to sixth and Frentzen dived into the pits. Bernd M?ylander spun his Mercedes and had to retire and there was quite a string of impatient cars lining up behind fifth placed Reuter. Alesi was immediately behind the Opel and got past at turn one.
The first obligatory pit stop was chaos as it seemed half the field came in all together. Leaders Ekstr?m, Paffett and Albers all ducked in and out, along with four Opels, two Audis and Frentzen again. Schneider and Alesi opted to stay out a lap longer. Dumbreck and Audi's Christian Abt raced up the pitlane, with Dumbreck reaching the exit first.
Schneider came out of his stop side by side with Albers and the pair tussled for a moment, Albers going wide onto the grass and Schneider getting ahead. Dumbreck nerfed the Mercedes of Markus Winkelhock, who spun in a huge cloud of tyre smoke but managed to keep going -- Dumbreck got a drive through penalty for his efforts.
At the front it was the Audi of Martin Tomczyk, who had started last, in the lead due to not having stopped. He thumped the wall coming into the main straight but got away with only losing a wing mirror. He then went in for his first stop and Paffett decided to have a go at Ekstr?m. The Brit was side by side with Mattias along the straight but couldn't get in front at turn one, Ekstr?m defending his position.
Paffett had another go on the next lap, then again for the third time -- Ekstr?m got fed up with being harassed and came in for his second stop very early, on lap 12, apparently not happy with the grip on the tyres. Scheider, who had been running fourth, also pitted, for the first time, and the order at the front was Paffett from Schneider and Albers.
Paffett then came in for his second stop and rejoined to find himself behind Ekstr?m again, which must have made him gnash his teeth. Scheider, meanwhile, was determinedly harassing Tomczyk, obviously getting impatient behind the Audi but able to find a way past.
Albers got past Schneider down the main straight, in a move that could have been Mercedes tinkering with its drivers. Albers was championship leader and naturally the team wanted him to stay there. Schneider certainly didn't put up a fight, although the current champion may have been a bit peeved.
Others went in for their second stops but the action remained at the front. Paffett had another go at Ekstr?m, diving up the inside at the last corner. The pair hurtled down the straight and Ekstr?m tried to fight back but Paffett finally got him at turn one. Schneider and Alesi pitted together and Jean had a very long stop that dropped him back. Tomczyk and Scheider also came in together and Tomczyk stayed ahead.
Albers came in the next lap and when he rejoined the order was Paffett, Ekstr?m, Albers, Schneider and Aiello, with Alesi sixth. There was a gap of some three seconds between Paffett and Ekstr?m and much the same between Mattias and Albers. That's usually a fairly comfortable gap but Albers was about to make it uncomfortable for Ekstr?m.
Christijan relentlessly closed in on the Audi lap by lap, and with eight to go he really drove hard. Slipstreaming down the main straight, the Mercedes swung wide at the end then cut across the back of the Audi and belted for the first corner. They were side by side, pushing and shoving, tyres smoking -- Albers nosed ahead but Ekstr?m grimly held on and stayed in front.
Again and again Albers flung the Mercedes into battle as the same corner came round each lap. Side by side down the straight then desperately trying to get the advantage at turn one, Albers never let up. But Ekstr?m was wise to the Dutchman's first corner attacks and defended well, holding his position with determination.
Further back, Scheider finally had enough of Tomczyk's Audi and poked it into a spin. Tomczyk came to a halt, no doubt not very happy, and Scheider finally was free of him. At the front, Ekstr?m and Albers' exertions were so frantic they had managed to close up on Paffett but Schneider was also right behind them. However, Bernd kept a watchful distance and Albers finally dropped back from Ekstr?m slightly as the last lap unwound.
It was a tension filled race, with first the battles between Paffett and Ekstr?m, then Mattias and Albers. Paffett ran out of fuel on his slow down lap and the Mercedes arrived in the pit lane being towed by a truck. His engineers had to push the car to parc ferm?.
"It was perfect!" Paffett said about his race, before he was aware of the investigation, obviously. "Starting seventh, I knew it was going to be tough. I had an amazing start, everyone else seemed to be standing still! I had a bit of a situation with Jean at first, then Christijan went wide and I got through. I knew I was quick enough to be in the lead, and then I got past Mattias. It was amazing."
Ekstr?m was relieved to make it over the line in second: "For me, the start was good and the first stint of the race," he said. "The pit stops were okay and the car was good until the second half because the tyres dropped off and I had some oversteer. But that's racing, it's how it goes. I had to fight hard for my position but it was good."
Despite his riveting attack on Ekstr?m in the closing stages, Albers had a difficult race. "I had a reasonable start but I didn't expect Ekstr?m to come round the outside, it (the track) was dirty over there. I had oversteer early on and Paffett got past and my speed (pit lane) limiter was broken which was a bit difficult. I'm happy with third after the problems in the race."
There were initial changes to the results before Paffett's disqualification. Timo Scheider finished seventh but was given a 50 second penalty for the contact with Tomczyk, which demoted him to 17th. Opel lodged an appeal but it was rejected. Therefore, Audi's Emanuele Pirro was promted to seventh and Opel's Marcel F?ssler to eighth. After Paffett disappeared from the top, the final top eight classification was Ekstr?m, Albers, Schneider, Aiello, Alesi, Pirro, F?ssler, Reuter.
The result, despite the shuffling, means Albers and Ekstr?m are now level at the front of the championship standings with 34 points apiece and Paffett stays third. A harsh punishment for Gary after he drove such a good race, but such are the rules. It doesn't take much to drastically change things in racing but for the moment the DTM belongs to the young guns.