1st run DTM, Hockenheimring Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg, 16th to 18th April 2004 Victory of the young: Gary Paffett wins DTM season opening race ahead of Albers and EkstrÃ¶m At the end of a thrilling DTM 2004 season opening race three youngsters gathered...
1st run DTM, Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg, 16th to 18th April 2004
Victory of the young: Gary Paffett wins DTM season opening race ahead of Albers and Ekström
At the end of a thrilling DTM 2004 season opening race three youngsters gathered on the winners' rostrum. On top was Gary Paffett. After 37 laps, the 23-year-old British won, having a lead of 2.258 seconds over his Mercedes team colleague Christijan Albers (25) and Audi pilot Mattias Ekström (25).
During the three day event at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg, a total 118,000 spectators came, which is a record for DTM in Hockenheim. On Sunday, viewers witnessed a thrilling race, distinguished by several duels and changes in lead. After a rock-like introduction by Jeanette Biedermann and Martin Kesici who performed an ARD Chart Show concert right before start, with thousands of young fans jubilating, DTM's stars played an engines' concert on the track. One of the protagonists was Peter Dumbreck in an Opel Vectra GTS V8: After gearbox problems in Saturday's qualifying, the Scotsman had started from position 21 but caught up to 6th place after a tough hunt.
Gary Paffett: "A perfect season start"
For long, no one could have predicted that one of the youngsters would win the title in DTM 2004's first race. At first, two experienced DTM stars manoeuvred their Mercedes stars into top positions. Jean Alesi, who had started from the pole, right on took the lead and headed the 21 drivers field lap by lap. But damage on his car's undertray as a result of a slipping accident during warm-up forced the former Formula 1 pilot to give up during lap 27.
Bernd Schneider then positioned himself on top after overtaking Gary Paffett, but British Paffett followed him lap by lap as if he was a shadow. Finally Schneider had to give up. "Twice I had contact with my rivals. Apparently something was damaged by that", He explained. Paffett, who for the 2004 season ascended into Mercedes-Benz' HWA factory-side team, is very happy about his first DTM win: "It all went perfect. I had a good start and everything was under control." Mercedes' sporting director Norbert Haug lauded: "Gary has rewarded us for the trust we put in him. We have a great team, but this season will be no joyride, considering the fact that all three brands' lap times were nearly identical."
Mattias Ekström: "1:0 for the youngsters"
As best Audi pilot, Matthias Ekström managed to jump on the winners' rostrum. When crossing the finishing line, Swede Ekström lagged Paffett by 9.200 seconds. "1:0 for the youngsters", Ekström rejoiced after the race. "This was a very good debut for Audi's factory-side comeback to DTM. I was on track fast. Unfortunately, Mercedes was a little faster today. We will work hard until Estoril, in order to be on top by then", he said - a challenge for the next race in Portugal in two weeks.
Audi's sporting director Dr Wolfgang Ullrich was not only pleased by Ekström's third place, but also about ranks four and five by DTM novice Tom Kristensen and Audi junior Martin Tomczyk: "Having three Audi drivers among the first five is good. Still, today we weren't able to attack Mercedes and to win the race. Maybe our tyre choice was a little too conservative. We will definitely put on something. Just give us some time. We can promise you: things will be hot."
Great catch-up by Peter Dumbreck in an Opel Vectra
One of the main protagonists of the race was Peter Dumbreck. In a spectacular manner the Scotsman fought himself up from a 21st and last start position to rank six. "It was a great race having a perfectly set up Opel Vectra", Dumbreck commented. "I pushed as hard as possible and fought my way through the field. However, when I was on six, right behind Martin Tomczyk, I had exhausted my tyres so much that I couldn't attack any more. All in all, I am satisfied with the result." All trough the race, Dumbreck's times were as good as those of the leading, which makes Opel sporting director Volker Strycek very happy: "Lap times are good. Peter was extremely fast. Otherwise he couldn't have got from 21 to 6. This was also proven by Timo Scheider."
One man was in focus of public attention: former Formula 1 pilot Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who had his DTM debut. Mönchengladbach-born Frentzen became eleventh. "After a good start and a good first stop I went into attacking, and I wanted too much from my tyres", Frentzen concluded. "DTM offers thrilling duels, a lot of fun and good sports for our fans. I am glad to be here with Opel." Opel sporting director Strycek assented: "Heinz-Harald drove without attracting attention, but he did so in a good and clean manner. We will soon see a lot of him."