Mattias Ekstrom has ended Mercedes' four-year stranglehold on victories at Hockenheim after leading home an Audi 1-2 in the first round of the 2007 DTM season, a race that initially threatened to be another Mercedes Hockenheim display.
The first time a driver hailing from the Ingolstadt marque has stepped atop of the podium at the former German Grand Prix venue since Laurent Aiello in 2002, Ekstrom triumphed from fellow Abt Sportsline driver Martin Tomczyk to get Audi's season off to a strong start.
Still, while they missed out on the leading positions, Mercedes can still take heart from locking out the remaining points positions, led initially by Bruno Spengler but eventually Daniel La Rosa when the Candian was penalised.
However, it was a relatively sombre Audi that took the spoils at Hockenheim after seeing three of their cars destroyed on the opening lap following a massive smash involving Tom Kristensen, Alexandre Premat, Adam Carroll and Mercedes' Susie Stoddart.
Kristensen had spun after contact with Timo Scheider and was hit heavily by the unsighted Premat, while Carroll and Stoddart were also forced to retire. Kristensen and Premat were taken to hospital where their condition is under review [see separate story].
The race restarted some 30 minutes later, with Spengler not timing his getaway well and slipping to third behind new leader Tomczyk and Mercedes counterpart Paul di Resta.
Aggrieved by his mistake at the start, Spengler wasted no time in dismissing di Resta for second and immediately began applying pressure to Tomczyk, who had built a comfortable 1.5secs lead over di Resta in just three laps.
Nonetheless, it took just two more revolutions of the Hockenheim circuit for Spengler to apply pressure to Tomczyk, the German duly responding by locking up and running wide at the hairpin, allowing Spengler into the lead and di Resta back up to second place.
It took just six laps for the first round of pit stops to get underway, Ekstrom and Jamie Green the first to visit their crews, their entries kick starting a flurry of activity that shook up the running order.