By Berthold Bouman, DTM Correspondent
Racing spectacle unfolds in front of 40,000 spectators
An altogether different approach today at the Munich Olympic Stadium for the final day of the German Touringcar Masters (DTM) show event, yesterday Mercedes and Audi drivers raced their team colleagues, and the winner of each marque went to the final, which was won by Edoardo Mortara for Audi after he had beaten Bruno Spengler, who took second place for Mercedes.
Today was the battle of the marques, the results from Saturday determined the pairings, and it was now Audi versus Mercedes in each heat. Some 40,000 spectators had come to the Munich stadium to watch the races, and during the morning Formula One driver Nico Rosberg gave a demonstration in his Mercedes GP Formula One car, cheered on by the German public.
Both Susie Stoddart (Mercedes) and Miguel Molina (Audi) were given a second chance to participate in today’s event. Stoddart raced against Maro Engel (Mercedes), while Molina battled it out with Rahal Frey (Audi). The winner of the Mercedes duel would then race the first heat against yesterday’s fastest Audi driver Mortara, and the winner of the Audi heat faced yesterday’s fastest Mercedes driver, Spengler.
In the morning Stoddart won her first heat but was beaten by Mortara in the next heat for the quarter finals, Molina also won his first heat and went on to the next heat challenging Spengler, but was beaten by the Canadian with 1.478s, and for both Stoddart and Molina it was once again a very short lived race day.
But Stoddart nevertheless was very positive about the event, I'm feeling quite happy, because the races so far in the Olympic Stadium have all been tight. It is really a great event. I've enjoyed the event very much and I think that the fans have too.”
David Coulthard (Mercedes) beat Filipe Albuquerque (Audi) and qualified for the quarter finals, and Mattias Ekstrom (Audi) joined him as he was faster than Gary Paffett (Mercedes). Dutchman Renger van der Zande (Mercedes) again surprisingly won his heat from the experienced Audi driver Timo Scheider by finishing 2.702s ahead of the German.
Mike Rockenfeller (Audi) was beaten by Christian Vietoris (Mercedes), Martin Tomczyk (Audi) won his heat after Ralf Schumacher (Mercedes) had crashed into the wall on the fast part of the 1.2 km long circuit, and Jamie Green (Mercedes) went on to the next heat by beating his compatriot Oliver Jarvis (Audi). Last one to go to the quarter finals was Spengler who won from Spaniard Molina.
Thus three Audi drivers, Mortara, Ekstrom and Tomczyk went on to the quarter finals to challenge five Mercedes drivers: Coulthard, Van der Zande, Vietoris, Green and Spengler.
It was very difficult for drivers to get enough heat into the tyres before the start, which made the first lap on almost cold tyres very treacherous. The first heat in the quarter finals was between Coulthard and Mortara, Mercedes versus Audi.
Mortara again showed he was almost unbeatable as he was after one lap already 1.3s faster than the Scot. Mortara drifted very close along the concrete walls lining the circuit, so did Coulthard, until he brushed the wall on the right side and then crashed into the wall on the other side, at the same place where Schumacher had crashed in the morning.
The damage was extensive, but Coulthard was unhurt. “I’m absolutely fine,” Coulthard said. “I hit the wall on one side and crashed into the other side. It was just a few millimeters, but that’s motor racing,” he said with a smile. Marshals cleaned up the track and the yellow Mercedes was towed away, just in time for the second heat.
The second pair appeared at the start line: Van der Zande and Ekstrom, again Mercedes versus Audi. The Swede had a super start, but Van der Zande gained on him just before the pit stop, nevertheless Ekstrom finally finished almost one second ahead of the Dutchman. But there was an unpleasant surprise for Ekstrom, he was handed a two-second penalty, because he had made a test start to warm up his tyres before he was on the actual track, and Van der Zande ultimately became the winner of this heat.
"I just wanted to do something for the fans. After all, this was a show event. It’s too bad that I was punished for this," a disappointed Ekstrom told after the race..
The third heat was again Mercedes versus Audi: Vietoris and Tomczyk. Vietoris was quick, after two laps he was almost two seconds faster than Tomczyk. After the pit stop Tomczyk gained some time on his compatriot, but Vietoris crossed the finish line 1.662s ahead of the Audi driver.
The fourth and last heat was between two Mercedes drivers: Spengler and Green. Briton Green gave it all he had and was half a second faster after the first lap, but he made a tiny mistake and just before the pit stop Spengler was ahead of him again. Green’s pit crew performed excellent and Green didn’t make mistakes during his last lap and crossed the finish line ahead of the Canadian.
But … Green was handed a five-second penalty as he had exceeded the pit lane speed limit of 60 km/h and Spengler was declared winner of the last heat. “I wasn’t too fast, I think it [the decision] was wrong,” he said later. “But it is not a problem. I was faster than Spengler, so I’m happy.”
Thus three Mercedes drivers (Van der Zande, Vietoris and Spengler) and one Audi driver (Mortara) made it into the semi finals, and had to race four laps including a pit stop.
First on track were Van der Zande and Mortara, both gave it all they had, both brushed the walls several times, but Van der Zande’s pit stop was almost one second slower and Mortara finished 1.132s ahead of Van der Zande.
Van der Zande was not disappointed with the show today, “What a great atmosphere, and after Saturday, I’m over the moon to finish on the podium on Sunday. I drove on the limit, but unfortunately, I missed the finals by a whisker.”
Next were the other two semi-finalists Spengler and Vietoris. Spengler was clearly faster, and after two laps almost seven-tenths of a second ahead of Vietoris, who also lost a lot of time in the pits. Spengler went on to win the last heat of the semi-finals, and finished 3.770s ahead of Vietoris.
The final heat
Like yesterday, Spengler and Mortara lined up for the final heat of the day, Mortara won the final yesterday, the question of course was whether the fast Italian could once more beat Spengler. Show event or not, both drivers were equally poised to win the final, and spectators were at the edge of their seat when the lights turned green for the final last five laps of the day.
Mortara was just a tad faster away at the start, but he made a small mistake, had to correct his car and lost his advantage. Meanwhile Spengler also gave it all he had and locked his wheels under braking, but both drivers arrived at the pit lane at the same time for the last pit stop of the day.
Both were equally fast out of the pit lane, the difference was minute, but in an attempt to get ahead of Spengler Mortara made a small mistake at the last chicane, lost control and crashed with the finish in sight. He was sliding too much when he entered the chicane, simply lost control and crashed into the opposite wall of the chicane, game over for Mortara.
"I tried everything to win again today," said Mortara. "My Audi A4 was again super-fast. But a very small mistake on this track is all it takes to end up in the wall. It’s really difficult here."
Of course Spengler was happy with his victory, “It’s a great feeling to have won this first DTM Show Event at the Olympic Stadium here in Munich. It was tremendous fun driving on this circuit and soaking up the atmosphere. The track is first rate and every race was incredibly close.” And added, “Today’s result certainly made up for yesterday’s final against Edoardo Mortara. I was very pleased to see so many fans turn up in the stadium, and I hope they’ll be back to see us again soon for more DTM racing.”
Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich commented, “We’ve experienced a great event in every respect and have probably won many new enthusiasts for the DTM, this is exactly what we wanted to achieve through this show event. I’d like to thank everyone who made this event possible.”
Of course Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director Norbert Haug was very pleased with his teams’ achievements this weekend, “A quality event with quality spectators and a quality winner. Bruno Spengler claimed a well-deserved victory here today and can rightly style himself ‘First DTM Indoor Champion’, even though the title doesn’t officially exist.”
Yesterday Audi won, today Mercedes was unbeatable, the German public loved it and were happy with the result after witnessing two days of spectacular DTM stadium racing. Next race is a real race again, and the DTM circus will travel to the Nurburgring for round six of the 2011 DTM Championship.