Audi super-subs Marco Werner and Frank Biela struggled as they were parachuted into the DTM at Oschersleben last weekend, but not before both had run up in the higher reaches on their brief series return.
Werner was standing in for Alex Prémat in the 2006-spec Audi Sport Team Phoenix A4 DTM, with American Le Mans Series team-mate Biela a last-minute replacement for Tom Kristensen in the crack Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline machine following the duo's smash on the first lap of the season-opener at Hockenheim last month.
Werner – making his first competitive DTM appearance for some 14 years – failed to make the most of his second set of tyres in qualifying, leaving him down in 17th spot on the starting grid. He did, however, run as high as fourth position in the race by dint of staying out late before making his second pit-stop, but eventually dropped back to 15th place at the chequered flag.
“In the end things were going really well,” the German enthused afterwards. “If I'd had four such sets of tyres – meaning two more in practice – to put me further forward on the grid, I'd have been really happy and would have achieved a better position.
“My place is not satisfactory, but my lap times were ok when I was following the front-runners. That's when I saw that things were working out. The tyres were a bit of gamble, but I'm not really unhappy.”
1991 DTM Champion Biela, meanwhile, fared no better, an 'off' in qualifying restricting him to 18th position on the grid – later to become 20th after he was demoted to the back for being deemed to have ignored a yellow flag during practice. Though he would get as high as third in race conditions by profiting from the same late-stopping tactic as Werner, his efforts would ultimately be undone by an electrical failure just two laps from home.
“The race was fun,” the 42-year-old acknowledged when speaking about his first outing in an A4 for three years, “even knowing I couldn't achieve a lot from that grid position. I fought and learned a little more again though. The team did a perfect job and it's a shame I wasn't able to drive all the way to the finish.”
Audi Sport Team Phoenix team director Ernst Moser was encouraged by Werner's progressive improvement throughout the weekend, as the reigning double Le Mans 24 Hours winner made the switch back across to tin-tops almost seamlessly.
“Marco was getting along better with each lap,” Moser remarked, “and in the end kept the pace of the others. He has finished his break-in period and could now really be running at the front of the field.”