Mattias Ekström the winner in the Eifel tyre gamble
Changeable conditions with rain, wind and sun – the notorious Eifel weather turned the 2005 DTM season’s seventh round into a true tyre gamble for the teams. 112,000 motor racing enthusiasts came to watch the DTM weekend and celebrated the beaming winner: Mattias Ekström. In front of the Nürburgring DTM record crowd, the Swede won the 43-lap race (156.047 kilometres) by crossing the finish line 1.088 seconds ahead of his team-mate Tom Kristensen. ‘It’s always nice to win a race,” said the winner. “But what really counts is the position you hold when the season is over.”
Gary Paffett held the lead for 28 of the 43 laps, yet, following his second pit stop he crossed the line at the pit-lane exit and was penalised with a Drive-Thru penalty. In the final lap, Paffett really went for it, with his AMG-Mercedes C-Class, and passed his team-mate Mika Häkkinen for third place, thus scoring six valuable championship points to keep his championship hopes alive. DTM Champion Ekström (51 points) regained the lead by clinching his second win, at the Nürburgring, but Paffett (50 points) is just one point behind.
Due to strong rain falling in the minutes prior to the race, the field of 20 had to conduct the 2005 season’s first start behind the Safety-Car. Again and again, the crowds had the chance of witnessing thrilling two- and three-car battles in all the areas of the field. Following a quick pit stop in lap nine, DTM Record Champion Bernd Schneider (Vodafone AMG-Mercedes) passed Audi’s Mattias Ekström in the pit-lane. Yet, the Swede did not wait a long time before he struck back and regained his position just one lap later. At the end of the day, Schneider finished fifth, behind Mika Häkkinen. Allan McNish (Audi Sport Team Abt) and the Mercedes-Benz drivers Jean Alesi and Jamie Green came in sixth, seventh and eighth respectively, thus also scoring championship points.
Laurent Aiello, however, who had been fifth on the grid, had to settle for ninth place. During his second pit stop, the Frenchman lost valuable seconds because of a problem with the air gun at the left front wheel. His brand-mates, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Marcel Fässler, took 12th and 13th places.
The thrilling battle for the title will be continued in three weeks. On 28th August, Zandvoort on the Dutch North Sea coast will be the venue of the 2005 DTM season’s eighth round.
Race quotesMattias Ekström (winner, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): “It’s always nice to win races. But it feels better to defeat your opponent on the track than winning because he was penalised. Yet, at the end of the day this doesn’t matter when it comes to winning title. Here, it’s all about having scored more points than your rival. And it doesn’t matter if you beat him by one or ten points.”
Tom Kristensen (2nd place, Audi Sport Team Abt): “It feels great to be back on the podium. Particularly following the past two races when I was the pole-sitter and didn’t make it to the podium. The race control’s decision to start the race behind the Safety-Car was the right one. Both our strategy and our pace were good. The result represents a good omen for the rest of the season.”
Gary Paffett (3rd place, DaimlerChrysler Bank AMG-Mercedes): “I’m very disappointed with my third place. It’s really annoying that I crossed the white line at the pit-lane exit. I am sorry for the entire team. I had the fastest car today and I should have won the race.”
Laurent Aiello (9th place, Team OPC): “It was difficult to decide which set-up we should use for the race, as the weather conditions were extremely changeable. During my second pit stop, we had a problem with the air gun, thus losing a lot of time. Afterwards, my chances of securing a top result were gone.”
Audi Motorsport Director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich: “It was the race we expected, although the weather surprised us once again. All the front runners delivered in fine style. We experienced minor problems during our pit stops. The grip level in front of Mattias’ garage was extremely poor, therefore, he lost a lot of time while trying to rejoin the action. But things like this just happen in these conditions. I’m very happy.”
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director Norbert Haug: “I’m very happy with our pace, our strategy and our pit stops. But then there was Gary’s misfortune with the white line and we were penalised when we seemed to be on the way to securing a superior win. This white line meant drama for many drivers, in the past. Our plan to increase our championship lead failed, but we will prove our sporting spirit and keep on fighting.”
Opel Motorsport Director Volker Strycek: “Manuel Reuter’s battle with Stefan Mücke, resulting in Manuel going off and into the gravel, the Drive-Thru penalty for Marcel Fässler and a failing air gun during Laurent Aiello’s pit stop cost us our chances of scoring points, today. Quite obviously we are very disappointed. Ninth place isn’t exactly the goal you set yourself when contesting a race.”