Audi Driver Ekström Second at Zandvoort
The fight for the title in Europe’s most popular touring car series remains thrilling: even after the eighth DTM round at Zandvoort, the Netherlands, the two most promising candidates for the title continue to be separated by merely one point. After Audi driver Mattias Ekström had captured the lead with his victory at the Nürburgring, he is now ranking behind Zandvoort winner Gary Paffet again with a very small gap. In the manufacturers’ standings, Audi managed to further expand its advantage over Mercedes.
After a less than perfect qualifying practice, the Audi drivers displayed their fighting spirit by pushing hard to make up ground. From fifth place on the grid, Mattias Ekström improved to third as early as in the starting phase. Shortly before the second half of the race, he got closer and closer to Gary Paffett until his Audi A4 DTM lost the front left flics after slightly touching Christian Abt’s car. Despite the loss in aerodynamic balance, the reigning DTM champion stayed the course to finish in second place.
Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen finished fourth to consolidate his third place in the standings despite having started from fifth place and struggling with an A4 DTM that had suffered severe front end damage as well. The Dane particularly thrilled the 77,000 spectators with a spectacular overtaking manoeuvre in the penultimate corner, pushing past Marcel Fässler (Opel).
Martin Tomczyk, as well, almost beat the Swiss driver to the photo finish at the finish line. Having started from position 15, the Bavarian was ultimately lacking merely 247 thousandths of a second for fifth place.
Another remarkable feat of making up ground was performed by Pierre Kaffer: from 18th place on the grid, he pushed forward to eleventh in his 2004-spec A4 entered by Audi Sport Team Joest to ultimately finish directly behind his team-mate, Christian Abt, who was handicapped by a bout of flu and whose car had suffered severe damage in a starting collision. Rinaldo Capello and Frank Stippler were knocked off the track by competitors and – like Allan McNish – had to retire.
Quotes after the race
Mattias Ekström (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline #1)
Tom Kristensen (Audi Sport Team Abt #5)
Martin Tomczyk (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline #2)
Christian Abt (Audi Sport Team Joest Racing #14)
Pierre Kaffer (Audi Sport Team Joest Racing #15)
Allan McNish (Audi Sport Team Abt #6)
Rinaldo Capello (Audi Sport Team Joest #18)
Frank Stippler (Audi Sport Team Joest #19)
Hans-Jürgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): “Of course we’d rather have won. But we can be satisfied with this team result. We made the best of our grid positions. Yet one has to admit that today it would have been very difficult to win the race against Gary Paffet – because his performance was very good. Nevertheless, we expanded our lead in the manufacturers’ standings. And the one point in the drivers’ championship, we’re going to re-capture as well.”
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “Alright, it’s still the same situation: whenever we make it into the Super Pole, we just don’t score any points, although things started out quite well with Christian. But with each set, the performance of his tyres was gone after a short time. Pierre handled his situation pretty well, particularly considering the position from which he started. Frank and ‘Dindo’ were spun, and the guys that did it received a drive-through penalty for this. >From then on, their races were finished as well.”
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “On the whole this was a good team performance. That Mattias would be competing with Gary Paffett for victory in this race, nobody would have thought after the qualifying. It shows how tight the DTM field is. In the last third of the race Mattias wasn’t able to keep pushing because he had lost the flics after a collision with Christian. He had to limit himself to bringing home the car without ruining his tyres. The championship remains thrilling, it’s always one point moving back and forth. For the spectators, this is the greatest situation in motorsport.”