Spring was in the air for Mercedes-Benz. The brand from Suttgart locked out the first four places in the DTM season opener at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg. After 39 laps and 178.386 kilometres, British driver Gary Paffett crossed the finish line as the race winner. The 29-year old was followed home by his fellow Mercedes-Benz drivers Bruno Spengler from Canada, Briton Jamie Green as the best-placed driver of a 2008-spec car and Scot Paul Di Resta.
“Winning the first race is a great way to start the season. Last year, the season started just the other way round for me. Today, our goal was to score as many points as possible. The team has done a tremendous job and I like the car – it is just running well. I could see the rest of the season going like this”, said the winner of the opening round immediately after the race. Paffett, the 2005 DTM champion, scored his 15th DTM race win at Hockenheim.”
The best-placed Audi driver was German Mike Rockenfeller in fifth place. The 26-year old is driving an Audi A4 DTM from the 2008 range. “My start was great. I overtook Paul Di Resta. We had some slight contact in the process and I lost a few positions. In spite of the damage to the front, the car was still quick. Moreover, we had a good strategy. Hopefully, we will be stronger in the races to come”, said Rockenfeller. Spaniard Miguel Molina (Audi) showed an impressive DTM debut, finishing in eighth place and scoring his first championship point right away in his maiden race. In ninth place, Mercedes-Benz driver Ralf Schumacher just missed out on championship points. Ex-Formula 1 driver David Coulthard (Mercedes-Benz) made up five places during the race and finished twelfth in his first-ever DTM race.
Bright sunshine and 78,000 fans were a great setting for the first DTM race weekend of the year. The fans got to see a thrilling start. Pole sitter Gary Paffett and German Martin Tomczyk (Audi) in second place had a tough battle for the lead. Tomczyk came out on top and took the lead, but suffered a punctured left rear tyre on his car on lap eleven. The 28-year old still made it back into the pits and initially was able to continue his race, but had to park his damaged car for good on lap 32. Paffett didn’t lose the lead anymore and scored a dominant win.
For Mattias Ekström, the 2004 and 2007 DTM champion, the race didn’t go too well. During the race, the Audi driver made it up from fifth on the grid into second place. However, as Ekström had come in for his first mandatory pit stop one lap too early, he had to repeat it and lost valuable seconds and his position. The Swede still scored some points in the battle for the title by finishing sixth. Reigning DTM champion Timo Scheider (Audi) came home in seventh place.
In the drivers’ standings, Paffett is leading with ten points from Spengler (8) and Green (6). The second DTM race weekend of the year will take place at Valencia in Spain from May 21st till 23rd.
Mercedes-Benz motorsport director Norbert Haug:
”Of cours, that was a dream start into the new season. No doubt, it could hardly have been any better. The task in the race was to keep the tyres alive. We managed to do this and that was the key to success. David Coulthard did considerably better than in qualifying. He will find his way. Ekström had the speed to win the race, but came in too soon for his pit stop. Gary has started off this season in the way he finished last year. This is his 15th victory in his 60th race, so he has won every fourth race. That is incredible.”
Audi motorsport director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich:
”This was a big blow for us today. We didn’t get the tyres to work and to prevent damage to the tyres. Martin didn’t have a problem with the tyres throughout the weekend and was still the first to suffer from a puncture. We have to investigate on that thoroughly. It was a good race and very open between the new and the old cars. I hope that we will see competition like this at the other race tracks, too. Molina was able to score a point in his very first race and did an excellent job.”