Mika also does it in DTM: Maiden win at Spa-Francorchamps
DTM’s Mika Häkkinen show is accelerating. In the 2005 season’s third round, held at Belgium’s 6.976-kilometre GP circuit, Spa-Francorchamps, the Mercedes-Benz driver clinched his maiden DTM victory. Behind the wheel of his Audi A4 DTM, the reigning champion, Mattias Ekström, finished second, with his brand-mate, Tom Kristensen, taking third place. About 25.000 motor racing enthusiasts travelled to Spa-Francorchamps for the 24-lap event and were rewarded with a truly remarkable race. During the course of the 167.424-kilometre event, they witnessed fantastic motor racing with thrilling wheel-to-wheel battles, stunning overtaking manoeuvres - and a beaming winner: Mika Häkkinen. In his only third DTM race, the two-time Formula One World Champion succeeded in already grabbing his second podium finish.
LSweden’s Ekström won the start against the ‘Flying Finn’, but thanks to an impressive driving performance and two perfect pit stops, Häkkinen got the upper hand. During the course of the race, the 36-year old continuously extended the gap on Ekström and Kristensen although he had to contest the race with 20 kilos ballast weight, due to the Mercedes-Benz successes in the previous rounds.
Opel also had something to cheer about: for the first time in the 2005 season, the Rüsselsheim based manufacturer succeeded in scoring points, at Spa-Francorchamps, with Swiss driver Marcel Fässler taking his Opel Vectra GTS V8 to fourth place, ahead of Audi’s Martin Tomczyk.
RAnd the drivers further down in the field added to the show by performing several fantastic battles for positions, with the battle between Opel’s Laurent Aiello and DTM record champion, Bernd Schneider, in his AMG-Mercedes C-Class proving to be a true highlight. Several times, the two former DTM Champions chased through Eau Rouge, door to door, and with just two more laps to go, the rivals made slight contact in the world-famous bend. Bernd Schneider lost control, went off and crashed heavily into the tyre walls, but could leave his car virtually unharmed. Aiello, however, continued to finish seventh.
Gary Paffett, who had won the previous DTM round, at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz, had to settle for eighth place. For an unfair manoeuvre in his fight with Pierre Kaffer (Audi), the 24-year old Briton was penalised with a drive-thru penalty. Behind him, Alexandros Margaritis (Mercedes-Benz) and Christian Abt (Audi) took ninth and tenth places respectively, with the latter having also been penalised with a drive-thru penalty for crossing the white line at the pit-lane exit when re-joining the race after his first pit stop.
In spite of having scored only one point in the Belgian DTM round, Gary Paffett (19 points) defended his championship lead. But after Spa-Francorchamps, his lead on Mika Häkkinen, Jean Alesi and Mattias Ekström adds up to only two points, thus making for an extremely thrilling fight for the title. The next DTM round will be held at Brno, Czech Republic, from 3rd to 5th June.
Race quotesMika Häkkinen (winner, Sport Edition AMG-Mercedes): “This has been a great week for me, but an exhausting weekend. The qualifying already was a major challenge. I completely owe this victory to my team. The car works perfectly. The only thing I still have to practice is the start.”
Mattias Ekström (2nd place, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): “Usually, I like to defeat the guys in front of me. But I just wasn’t able to get Mika Häkkinen under control, this weekend. We had some bad luck regarding the pit stops and further details, but in DTM, everything has to be perfect if you want to win. Yet, at the end of the day I’m rather happy with the result.”
Tom Kristensen (3rd place, Audi Sport Team Abt): “During the course of the entire race, I was fighting hard to defend my position against Marcel Fässler. The team has done a fantastic job to provide me with a perfect car. Quite obviously, I would love to soon take the lead in our ‘Scandinavian Championship’.”
Marcel Fässler (5th place, GMAC Team OPC): “Quite obviously, I’m not really happy with the result, but we succeeded in scoring points, for the first time this season. And I was involved in two fantastic battles. On the one hand with Tom Kristensen, in front of me, on the other with Martin Tomczyk, behind me.”
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director Norbert Haug: “Mika delivered in perfect style and drove a flawless race. The entire team has done a fantastic job. Fortunately, Bernd Schneider escaped his heavy crash unharmed. Obviously the accident has been the result of a misunderstanding between Bernd and Laurent Aiello, as they use to deal fair with one another.”
Audi Motorsport Director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich: “Today, we have witnessed a very good team performance and succeeded in improving our position in the overall rankings. Mattias made a great start and could keep Mika behind him, on the first set of tyres. The first stop wasn’t perfect, so he lost some ground and Mika could pass him. There was some blistering on his left rear tyre, therefore, Mattias decided to back off a little bit to not take an unnecessary risk. Martin and Tom have also delivered in fine style.”
Opel Motorsport Director Volker Strycek: “Because of the qualifying result and the lap times we set in the warm-up, we had reasons to hope for a podium finish. Unfortunately we didn’t quite make it. Yet, we are rather pleased to have scored points with two of our cars. Today, we have witnessed truly remarkable motor racing.