Nancy Knapp Schilke
Audi lands first victory of 2012 in Spielberg
Edoardo Mortara earned his maiden pole yesterday, and did not hesitate when the lights went out to lead his rivals into the first turn at the 4.326km Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. The Italian landed his first Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) victory by a margin of 1.068 seconds in his Team Rosberg Audi A5. The 2011 top rookie in the hotly-contested series kept the 2011 champion Martin Tomczyk and the current points leader Gary Paffett at bay to land Audi their first win of the season, and his team their first-ever DTM win.
"That was a fantastic weekend. My first pole position yesterday and my first victory today - I’m simply super-happy,” smiled Mortara.
...when you’re in contention for victory you won’t give in easily.
The fourth round for the DTM teams was a classic showdown between the Audi, BMW and Mercedes teams. Mortara will always remember his first win, especially since he kept two champions behind him, and it was not easy as both Tomczyk in his BMW Team RMG M3 and the THOMAS SABO Mercedes AMG C-Coupé belonging to Paffett were breathing down on the Audi the entire race (47 laps). Not once did Mortara lose the lead, even after two pitstops, and while the German was focused on the leader, Tomczyk was focused on keeping the Briton behind his BMW.
Mortara added his thanks to Audi Sport and to Team Rosberg: “My guys worked incredibly hard in the past few weeks and months. This is the first reward today. I’m hoping for things to continue this way because I think we learned a lot here at Spielberg and made a major step forward. The battle with Gary (Paffett) was tough - but when you’re in contention for victory you won’t give in easily."
Prior to the race, the defending champion Tomczyk, who switched teams at the end of last year stated he wanted his first podium finish and he did get it! However, he did not have his best as the German made a rare error having went wide and dropped to fourth behind Mattias Ekström and Paffett. It was not a brilliant start for the Englishman either as he dropped from the front row into third; which allowed the Audi Sport Team Abt’s Swede to take second.
“That was a close and exciting race,” said Tomczyk. “Even at the start I really had to push hard in order to hold my ground. After that I was able to pull off a few nice overtaking manoeuvres and move into second. The race strategy employed by my BMW Team RMG really bore fruit and our pit stops were simply perfect. They helped me to move up through the field. With a little bit of luck we could even have scored a victory. After the Safety Car phase I had to fight for lap after lap, but it worked out excellently.”
The action that brought out the Safety Car was behind the leaders. Adrien Tambay (Audi Sport Team Abt) and BMW Team Schnitzer’s Dirk Werner had contact as they headed into Turn 2. Both drivers were out of the action. While Paffett moved around Ekström, Tomczyk saw his own opening and overtook the Swede before the next incident which brought out the Safety Car. Mercedes’ Christian Vietoris ended up in the Armco barrier when he and Andy Priaulx’s BMW Team RGM collided. Tambay and Vietoris were stationary and their cars had to be removed; while Priaulx and Werner retired after they made it back to pit lane.
Before and after the mandatory pit stops, the trading of positions behind the leaders kept the attention of the fans while all awaited for the final charge to the finish. Mortara still had the lead and had to maintain his concentration to keep Tomczyk and the rest of the chasers at bay, and this was only his 14th DTM race! Fortunately for the Italian, the German had his own worries with Paffett inching closer lap-after-lap. In the end the gap between second and third was 1.074 seconds. The Englishman had to fend off Ekström in order to take the final podium step; Paffett was just over six-tenths of a second in front of the Swede at the checkered flag.
“The race was really exciting – of course, my final position could have been better, but that's racing. I have extended my lead in the championship and that's what counts. The scraps today were sometimes quite tough going and by the end of the race, my radiator was totally clogged up with grass. Nevertheless, I am very pleased with my four podium finishes in the first four races of 2012 – a first-class start to the season,” said Paffett.
Behind the top four was a fight for the fifth between Jamie Green (Mercedes), Timo Scheider (Audi), Joey Hand (BMW), Filipe Albuquerque (Audi), Mike Rockenfeller (Audi), and Augusto Farfus (BMW). The final outcome for fifth landed in the lap of Green when he sped ahead to build up a gap that the others could not catch.
The fight for sixth through 10th heated up especially when they were, at times, only hundredths of a second apart. Team Abt’s Scheider placed sixth followed by Rockenfeller for Phoenix Racing. Albuquerque was eighth for Team Rosberg. Ninth went to Team RMG’s Hand, and Farfus was 1oth for Team RBM.
The fourth round of 2012 saw Audi take their first win; BMW won on the second round, and Mercedes has two. The contest will continue with the next challenge for the DTM drivers and teams on the weekend of July 1st at the Norisring. Paffett now has 83 points with Ekström now at 47 followed by Green, who has 44 points.