International debut of the new Audi A4 DTM Ingolstadt -- Demonstrating "Vorsprung durch Technik" in the DTM is extremely difficult due to the tight regulations. Nevertheless, this is exactly what AUDI AG did at the first two DTM races in 2008:...
International debut of the new Audi A4 DTM
Ingolstadt -- Demonstrating "Vorsprung durch Technik" in the DTM is extremely difficult due to the tight regulations. Nevertheless, this is exactly what AUDI AG did at the first two DTM races in 2008: with two commanding victories at Hockenheim and Oschersleben, the new Audi A4 DTM hit the headlines. The same is true for Timo Scheider, who celebrated his first DTM win and, on the first weekend in May, will go to a DTM race as the leader of the standings for the first time in his career.
The 29-year-old German, who lives in Lochau, Austria, on Lake Constance, together with his fiancee Jasmin Rubatto and their son Loris-Romeo, is now regarded as the "man to beat" in the DTM. In his eighth DTM year he has made his debut as a member of the small circle of title candidates. A self-professed fan of Italy, he is particularly looking forward to the DTM's Italian round at Mugello -- although his memories of the circuit in Tuscany are not necessarily the best: last year he retired after a collision on the first lap, in March the German slid off the track in the new A4 DTM while testing in rainy weather.
But that's history. The perfect start to the season has given Scheider as much self-confidence as it has to the entire Audi squad. Meanwhile, their rivals as well as the media, tend to be more puzzled by the question of why the new Audi A4 DTM is so fast. At Audi Sport in Ingolstadt the answer is pretty clear, but the squad intends to keep it on close hold for as long as possible in order to retain its advantage.
Despite the technological advantage, conditions at the new Audi A4 DTM's first international showing will be anything but easy: the cars driven by Mattias Ekstrom, Tom Kristensen, Timo Scheider and Martin Tomczyk will weigh 20 kilograms more than the 08-spec cars of Mercedes-Benz at Mugello -- as required by the DTM regulations. And -- according to computer simulations performed by Audi Sport -- 20 kilograms at Mugello cost about five tenths of a second per lap.
On the other hand, the new A4 DTM should be able to play out its strengths in the areas of aerodynamics and weight distribution particularly on the longest - and arguably most demanding -- circuit on the DTM's schedule. Last year, Audi was the dominating brand at Mugello as well -- even though, due to a safety car period, Mika Hakkinen in a Mercedes won. This means that Audi still has a score to settle.
The quickest driver at the pre-season tests at Mugello was Markus Winkelhock, who thereby suggested that the A4 cars from last year can still be counted on as well.
Who will actually have the best chances at Mugello will be revealed no later than at Saturday's (3 May) qualifying practice, which will be broadcast live on "Das Erste" starting at 1:30 p.m. (local time). Live coverage of the race on Sunday will begin at 1:45 p.m. The free practice session on Saturday morning will be broadcast live on www.dtm.tv.
Quotes before the race at Mugello
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "Last year at Mugello, we were stronger than Mercedes and meanwhile we know pretty well how good the new Audi A4 DTM is. Still, we shouldn't -- and won't -- underestimate our rivals from Stuttgart. They will leave no stone unturned to make up the gap and to strike back. In addition, weight plays a much bigger role at Mugello than at other circuits. That's why I'm expecting good results as well from ours drivers of the lighter cars from last year."
Mattias Ekstrom (Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #1): "In 2007 I was on pole at Mugello and finished the race as the runner-up. It was one of the best weekends of the year -- reason enough for me to look forward to the new round at this circuit."
Martin Tomczyk (Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #2): "I'm looking forward to Mugello. Bella Italia. Nice weather, good food, a great track, a fast A4 -- that's a fine package."
Tom Kristensen (Audi A4 DTM #9): "Mugello is a very fluid circuit, extremely fast. I'm looking forward to the round in Italy, as probably all of my colleagues are. If the race turns out to be less crazy for me than the last one at Oschersleben, a good result will be possible."
Timo Scheider (GW:plus/Top Service Audi A4 DTM #10): "Mugello is the quickest circuit on the schedule. You get an intense feeling of aerodynamic downforce there. I like that. We're carrying 20 kilograms more weight than the current C-Class cars. Of course, this doesn't make matters any easier for us, but we're all in high spirits at the moment, so I can hardly wait to go to Mugello."
Alexandre Premat (Audi Bank/Shell Helix Audi A4 DTM #14): "I'm looking forward to Mugello. I like the circuit. Last year and at the pre-season tests we were very quick there. The first two weekends didn't go really well for me. But I'm sure that we'll improve the car and will be able to score points at Mugello."
Oliver Jarvis (Best Buddies Audi A4 DTM #15): "A strong qualifying, similar to the one at Oschersleben, and a more fortunate race without a starting accident -- that would be fantastic. I like the track and think that the 07-spec Audi cars will be very quick there."
Mike Rockenfeller (S line Audi A4 DTM #18): "I've got high expectations of Mugello. Last year I finished sixth and this year as well points should be possible. However, due to our exploit at Oschersleben we had to add weight."
Markus Winkelhock (Playboy Audi A4 DTM #19): "During the tests at Mugello I was the quickest. That, if nothing else, is a reason why I look forward to going back there. But another one is that it's such a great circuit. What's more, I clinched my first DTM points at Oschersleben. That makes me feel optimistic as well."
Katherine Legge (Audi A4 DTM #20): "At Oschersleben we showed that we can keep up with the newer cars. We want to continue this at Mugello. I think the circuit should suit us well."
Christijan Albers (Audi A4 DTM #21): "We had a good test at Mugello and I hope that the difference between our 06-spec Audi A4 DTM and the current cars won't be too big there. If we manage to work out a good setup early on and have more luck on Sunday than at the first two races, a good result should be possible."
Hans-Jurgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): "Due to the weight regulations things will be more difficult for us, but I believe we've got good chances anyhow. Mugello suited us superbly last year, we were well prepared. Although we weren't rewarded with victory, the Audi A4 DTM clearly had the potential to win. Now we want continue this performance."
Ernst Moser (Team Director Audi Sport Team Phoenix): "The key thing for us is to forget about the black Sunday at Oschersleben. We should be able to do that because, thanks to our tests in March, we're extremely well prepared for Mugello. Our goal is to be part of the action at the front of the field."
Arno Zensen (Team Director Audi Sport Team Rosberg): "We want to continue our strong team performance at Oschersleben. Of course this won't be easy, but last year and during the tests at Mugello we were quick. The circuit seems to suit our drivers well."