Audi Fights for DTM Title to the Very End
In front of a record turnout of 147,000 spectators, Audi kept its word of fighting for the title in Europes most popular touring car series to the very end. A strategy employed by Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline that was as surprising as it was clever almost made it possible for Audi driver Mattias Ekström to defend the title successfully after all: having started from position 15 on the grid, the Swede completed the two tyre changes prescribed by the regulations in immediate succession a novelty in DTM history.
Despite this clever move, Ekström had to settle for the vice champions title. After rain had set in just before the start, his team put all the stakes on one card and changed the set-up of his Audi A4 DTM from dry to rain as late as on the starting grid a gamble that went unrewarded: halfway through the race the racing line had dried off completely, and there were no more rain showers. In the second half of the race, the Audi driver was fighting with his back against the wall, coming under fierce attacks by Mercedes driver Jean Alesi during which his Audi A4 DTM lost crucial aerodynamic components, and ultimately finished in seventh place.
Best Audi driver in the final race yet again – was Tom Kristensen. The Le Mans record winner started with a dry set-up and at times was clocking the fastest lap times by far in the field. At the finish, Kristensen in the fight for third place had to admit defeat to the new DTM champion, Gary Paffett (Mercedes-Benz), by merely 0.607 seconds.
The best race so far in his young DTM career was driven by Frank Stippler in last years A4 of Audi Sport Team Joest. Over a distance of 21 laps Stippler managed to keep Gary Paffett at bay before having to give way to the Brit. With a fifth-place finish, the German achieved his best DTM result so far.
The other Audi drivers were less fortunate: Allan McNish and Christian Abt became victims of the same Mercedes driver. Martin Tomczyk drove across carbon fibre components which Jean Alesis Mercedes had lost, causing him to go off the track with a front wheel lock. Dindo Capellos Audi was brushed several times by rivals as early as on the turbulent opening lap, resulting in front end damage to his car.
In the drivers classification, Audi claimed second and third place, achieved by Mattias Ekström and Tom Kristensen, respectively. Audi clinched the vice champions title in the manufacturers classification, and Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline second place in the teams standings.
Quotes after the race
Tom Kristensen (Audi Sport Team Abt #5)
Frank Stippler (Audi Sport Team Joest #19)
Mattias Ekström (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline #1)
Pierre Kaffer (Audi Sport Team Joest Racing #15)
Christian Abt (Audi Sport Team Joest Racing #14)
Dindo Capello (Audi Sport Team Joest #18)
Allan McNish (Audi Sport Team Abt #6)
Martin Tomczyk (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline #2)
Hans-Jürgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): “Finishing second and third in a fiercely contested championship like the DTM is a great result. Of course we would have preferred defending the title. We gave everything and fought to the very end. Still, we didnt quite make it. Congratulations to Gary (Paffett). He drove a fantastic season. This motivates us to beat him again in 2006.
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “Frank (Stippler) drove a sensational race. He showed strong nerves, and we had the right strategy. The way he kept Gary Paffett from passing was a class act. Pierre, too, drove a great race. With Christian (Abt), the speed was right as well and we performed eight good pit stops. Im very satisfied with the season: we scored lots of points and have the best driver of a car from last year, Christian Abt. Im proud of our squad.
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “Unfortunately, we didnt manage to achieve our goal of clinching another great result in the final race of the season. Still, we fought fairly to the very end and truly gave everything. We knew that defending the title would be more difficult than winning it. In nine races we fought for the title. Only in the last two races things didnt go according to schedule any more. Were going to analyse this carefully and learn our lessons. The results will inspire us to do everything within our means to bring the title back to Ingolstadt next year.