Leading Audi ace and 2004 DTM Champion Mattias Ekstr?m is eagerly anticipating the 2007 season-opener at Hockenheim this weekend, as he bids to significantly improve on the sole victory he registered in the series last year.

"Hockenheim is always interesting," the Swede remarked. "It is a big challenge to find the correct set-up. We have, on the one hand, extremely high top-speeds, while on the other you need good traction out of the slower corners too. We only really go head-to-head with the opposition for the first time each year there after the tests - and in October again for the last time.

"The atmosphere is something very special; the grandstands are packed-out. Such a backdrop sends shivers down anybody's spine. In April 2006, 104,000 spectators showed up and in October an incredible 149,000. That was a new record for the DTM. Even when the paddock is full to bursting I still enjoy it, and love to give lots of autographs."

Ekstr?m was out of luck at Hockenheim in 2006 - failing to trouble the points-scorers on either occasion as he struggled to a lowly eighth in the end-of-season drivers' standings - but the 28-year-old remains hopeful of a much stronger showing this time around to get his 2007 campaign off to a flying start.

"I hope our car is a little faster this year than the Mercedes," he said. "That will give us a better chance of overtaking on the straight. Essentially, there are good opportunities to overtake entering the second corner and at the end of the long 'Parabolika' straight leading to the hairpin.

"From the practical point of view, though, it doesn't really help us that we compete on the same circuit twice. The car is always developed in such a way during the season that the data from April is of little meaning in October."

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