8th DTM race, Circuit Park Zandvoort (NED), September 3 - 5, 2004
DTM poised for thrilling final thrust of the championship
The DTM drivers have only three more chances this year to battle it out over points for the championship. The thrilling final leg is being staged this weekend on the 4.307-kilometre-long Circuit Park Zandvoort in The Netherlands. The spoils will be shared out among the young DTM generation.
26-year-old Audi shooting star Mattias Ekström is headed for the North Sea coast as overall leader on 51 points and an advantage of nine points. The Swede is buoyed by confidence, having won his first DTM race on this demanding circuit two years ago.
Christijan Albers, second overall, is also bent on a solid result in the eighth championship race of the season in his AMG-Mercedes C-Class (42 points). The 25-year-old Dutchman won his home race last year in a time of 1:36.494 minutes for a DTM circuit record.
Another driver with a realistic chance of winning the title follows hot on the heels, just two points behind. Gary Paffett, Albers' 23-year-old team mate, also has a say in the championship.
From a purely mathematical point of view, the two Audi drivers Tom Kristensen (27 points, fourth) and Martin Tomczyk (23 points, fifth) as well as DTM champion Bernd Schneider (22 points, sixth) also stand a chance.
Zandvoort, the spectacular circuit amid dunes and just a stone's throw away from the North Sea coast, is very popular with both drivers and fans. 62,000 spectators came over the weekend last year, and this year additional stands were built to accommodate a further 4,100 seats. The drivers complete a total 36 laps (155.052 kilometres).
Mattias Ekström (Audi Sport Team Abt, overall leader, 51 points):
"I only have good memories of Zandvoort. I like the circuit and the atmosphere, and I won my first DTM race here two years ago. Then it was all about the title for my team mate Laurent Aiello, now I myself have got the chance to become champion. But that's still a long way off. I'll give my all and will try to keep out of any scrambles in the race with the backing of my five Audi colleagues."
Christijan Albers (DaimlerChrysler Bank AMG-Mercedes, second, 42 points):
"My home race is the climax of the season for me and the Dutch fans who I expect will come in droves. I'm looking forward to this varied and demanding circuit and to the fans, who can always be relied on for stirring up a great atmosphere. A good performance in qualifying is extremely important as it's very difficult overtaking on the numerous long-drawn out bends. I was able to win here in Zandvoort last year. That was one of the highlights of my career."
Gary Paffett (C-Class AMG-Mercedes, third, 40 points):
"I've already driven on the Circuit Park Zandvoort in 2003 in the DTM and before that for two years in the Formula 3. Christijan and I have to collect as many points as possible to keep alive our chances of winning the championship. My team will certainly again do their best to provide me with a car that gives me a good chance of winning like in most of the other races this season."
Manuel Reuter (Opel Vectra GTS V8, tenth, eight points):
"I like this circuit; it's pretty demanding and has a lot of really nice sections. The whole surroundings have a unique flair. The podium finish at the last race in Motopark Oschersleben did me and my team a lot of good. Now we're relaxed ahead of Zandvoort. I was fourth there last year, maybe now I'll be able to manage another leap onto the podium."
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Audi Motorsport Director:
"We expect that the circuit in Zandvoort is again one that suits our Audi A4 DTM well. But we've left nothing to chance in being well prepared for the last three races of the season and above all worked on the set-up for qualifying during test drives. Following the good team performance in Oschersleben, we also want to see as many A4s as possible right at the front in Zandvoort."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director:
"Zandvoort has so far been the most popular race with spectators at races outside Germany in the DTM calendar. Last year a new record was set with 62,000 visitors and the advance ticket sales for this year promise that even more Dutch fans will come to the circuit in the dunes. Many of them will support defending champion Christijan Albers. I'm expecting a thrilling race will many winning contenders."
Volker Strycek, Opel Motorsport Director:
"Our aim is to continue the upward momentum from the Nuerburgring and Oschersleben and to repeat those performances. Zandvoort is a completely different type of race track to that at the Nuerburgring or at Oschersleben. Speeds are higher and there are some really demanding sections. Jeroen Bleekemolen will really enjoy it. He will be driving a current Vectra GTS V8 for the first time at his home race."