Audi kicked off its preparations for the forthcoming campaign with an intensive physical training session, as it launches an all-out assault on rival Mercedes in its battle to reclaim the DTM honours it last won in 2004.

All of the Ingolstadt marque's factory drivers travelled to the Sonnenalp resort in Ofterschwang for the week-long winter programme. Activities as varied as aqua jogging, Nordic walking, cross-country skiing and basketball ensured team-building was always high on the agenda.

"On this occasion we spent much more time than we did last year getting to know each other personally," explained Head of Audi Motorsport, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. "This was to build even more confidence in one another so as to be in a position to deliver an even better performance for Audi."

"Even though the majority of us have been with Audi for years, you always discover something new about the others," added Swede Mattias Ekstr?m, Audi's last DTM title-winner three years ago. "And, of course, it's important to get to know the new drivers."

Among those new drivers were Germans Lucas Luhr and Mike Rockenfeller, both of whom said they felt immediately at home among their more established team-mates. The two former sportscar stars also impressed on the physical side, an area of particular importance in both the DTM and longer endurance events.

"In the past we often had to start from scratch with young drivers," declared Audi team physician Dr Christian John. "This year they arrived at our winter training in excellent condition.

"We can test the muscle power in individual areas of the body using modern machines and see from the data what has improved or possibly deteriorated over time.

"A sportscar driver needs even more physical strength in the shoulder area because he must withstand very high g-forces. In addition, he must drive for long periods of time. In the DTM the high cockpit temperatures are more of an issue. We've measured up to 60 degrees Celsius. This really is a considerable strain, but fortunately the DTM races are relatively short."

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