Mattias Ekstrom scored the pole position with a perfect lap at Zandvoort yesterday, and followed it up today with a flawless race to take his second DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) victory of the year, a lights-to-chequered run. Ekstrom did...
Mattias Ekstrom scored the pole position with a perfect lap at Zandvoort yesterday, and followed it up today with a flawless race to take his second DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) victory of the year, a lights-to-chequered run.
Ekstrom did not have it easy, though, as championship leader Timo Scheider kept him honest, shadowing him from start to finish in an Audi 1-2-3-4 walk-over in the new A4's DTM debut. Scheider finished just 0.270 seconds behind his teammate.
"A great weekend," was Ekstrom's apropos summary of Zandvoort. "First pole position yesterday, then victory today. Just perfect. My car was great and there was absolutely nothing to complain about today. Timo kept me under pressure all the time, so that I had to be on the limit throughout the race."
Ekstrom made both of his pit stops first, so Scheider had an opportunity to to try to catch up low fuel, but the German was not able to make headway at the right time in order to pass Ekstrom through the stops.
"That was a sensational weekend for all of us," said Scheider. "If anything at all, I'd have perhaps wished for a different strategy. Mattias pitted in front of me twice. That was clearly an advantage. So I finished in second place in the end. Although I was able to put some pressure on Mattias there was no chance to get even closer to him due to the corners at Zandvoort. In the end, it was a fantastic result because after 38 laps I was two tenths behind Mattias."
The 1-2-3-4 was a repeat of last year; clearly the Zandvoort track, nestled among the sand dunes on the Dutch coastline, suits the A4 well. Combine that with the strong showing of the new A4 chassis, and the 10 kg weight penalty the Mercedes teams were carrying, and the 2008-spec Audis really were in a class of their own.
Tom Kristensen took third, again for Audi, 6.760 seconds behind Ekstrom. The Danish Le Mans ace had a bit of lonely race in cruising to the podium, not quite able to challenge Ekstrom and Scheider for the lead, but easily staying in front of fourth-placed Martin Tomczyk.
"At the beginning, I lost some time," Kristensen explained. "Admittedly, I set the fastest lap time, but today, that wasn't enough. 'Eki' and Timo were incredibly fast. I stabilised this gap in the middle section of the race. Towards the end, I saved my tyres and safely drove third place home."
Tomczyk laid claim to the fourth place already at the start, passing Mercedes drivers Jamie Green and Bruno Spengler into the first corner. He never looked back, and finished 3.4 seconds adrift of Kristensen, and a remarkable 11.7 seconds ahead of the fastest Mercedes, that of Spengler.
Spengler, too, got past Green at the start, and the Briton had to be satisfied with chasing his teammate for the rest of the race, finishing sixth, a scant 1.1 seconds behind him. Paul di Resta was seventh, but some 45 seconds behind the leaders, having lost some time during his second pit stop.
Markus Winkelhock sealed an outstanding weekend for Audi by taking eighth and final points-paying position in a 2007-spec car, after Bernd Schneider (2008 Mercedes) and Mike Rockenfeller (in another 2007-spec Audi) tangled on the penultimate lap.
With his second place, combined with Green's sixth, Scheider stretches out his championship lead to five points, 40-35, now over Ekstrom, who moves into second. Green is still in touch, though, with 34 points heading into Nurburgring in two weeks' time.
"It's good to be among the front of the field halfway through the championship," Ekstrom summed up his outlook. "As the runner-up in the standings I'm now five points behind the front-runner and am looking forward to the next race already!"