Mattias Ekström starts final spurt to season with fabulous time

No fewer than four Audi drivers swooped into the top places on Friday morning during the DTM's first foray at Zandvoort, the Netherlands. Current overall leader, Mattias Ekström, snatched the top time with 1:35.317 minutes around the 4.307-kilometre-long Circuit Park Zandvoort.

Team mate Martin Tomczyk came second, nearly seven tenths of a second behind (1:35.990 minutes). The two Audi A4 DTMs driven by Tom Kristensen and Christian Abt ranked third and fourth. Frenchman Laurent Aiello was the fastest Opel driver in his Opel Vectra GTS V8 for a fifth place.

Mercedes-Benz driver Christijan Albers followed hot on the heels in sixth in front of his home crowd Fellow-Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen was driving his new Opel Vectra GTS V8 for the first time in Friday's first training session in Zandvoort, and ranked seventh. The Dutchman had been driving a one-year-old Opel up until the last race in Oschersleben.

Mattias Ekström (Audi):

"It's very rare to already drive such a perfect lap on Friday. I managed to do that today. This is an ideal start to the final spurt of the championship."

Laurent Aiello (Opel):

"I've always felt comfortable in Zandvoort - today too. Maybe it's the proximity to the sea that motivates me even more. I'm absolutely satisfied with the first training."

Christijan Albers (Mercedes-Benz):

"I'm not really satisfied with the sixth place this morning. But the result doesn't yet mean anything for the whole race weekend."

Royal visit at the DTM

Prince Pieter-Christiaan will come and watch the DTM race in Zandvoort on Sunday. The nephew of Dutch queen Beatrix is an avid amateur racing driver and competes in the national Seat Ibiza Cup. On the invitation of Opel, Prince Pieter-Christiaan will sit in one of the original DTM cars equipped with a passenger's seat on Sunday before the DTM race. Compatriot Jeroen Bleekemolen will chauffeur the prince around the course of the Circuit Park Zandvoort.

Numerous fun side events at DTM weekend

Visitors will be entertained by varied side events in Zandvoort staged around the race. Drivers, team members and officials already got together on Thursday for a gold tournament over 18 holes. Nine holes on the challenging "Open Golf Zandvoort", nine holes along the race track. HWA team head Jürgen Mattheis won the event. DTM champion Bernd Schneider came third.

The history of the DTM is being shown in the exhibition "20 years of the DTM" in the "Holland Casino" in Zandvoort. It incorporates a veritable treasure trove of historical photographs, original DTM cars and anecdotes. The exhibition is open fron Friday to Sunday daily from 1230 to 0200. Entrance is free.

The party will really get going directly after the DTM race. From 1600 to 2000 as part of "Ameezing Zandvoort", famous Dutch bands and DJs will perform in the conference centre "Am Meer". Entrance is also free here for all visitors.