Formula 1 test-driver Markus Winkelhock will return to the DTM at the Eurospeedway Lausitz this weekend, as Tom Kristensen continues to recover from the injuries he sustained in the season-opener at Hockenheim.
The young German – who took part in the DTM back in 2004 at the wheel of a year-old Mercedes – will fly to the East German circuit direct from his grand prix testing duties with Spyker at Paul Ricard on Thursday afternoon. He will step into the state-of-the-art, 2007-spec Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline A4 for his first competitive race outing since 2005.
“I'm extremely happy to get this chance from Audi,” the 26-year-old enthused, “even though I know how difficult it will be. I've followed every race since I left the DTM. The difference in performance between the cars is now miniscule, especially this year.
“Of course things aren't made any easier for me by being unable to test beforehand. However, I'm a driver who can normally get used to new cars, new circuits and new environments very quickly. I hope I live up to my own expectations and produce the best for Audi. I'm really looking forward to joining this fantastic team.”
Frank Biela, meanwhile, who stood in at short notice for Kristensen last time out at Oschersleben, will focus his attentions on his preparations for the Le Mans 24 Hours with Audi on 16-17 June.
There is better news for Alex Prémat, who was also implicated in the opening lap shunt in the 2007 curtain-raiser, fracturing a lumbar vertebra in the impact and being forced to spend a number of days in hospital. The Frenchman has happily been declared fit to race again this weekend.
“I've been working for some time now on improving my fitness,” stressed the former GP2 ace, “from weight training to jogging. The rehabilitation programme was very intensive, but I'm 1,000 per cent motivated!
“I'm really very relieved to be able to return so soon after such a heavy accident. I'm looking forward to seeing my team again and returning to the Audi family. I want to get a good result at the Eurospeedway after having been away from the DTM scene for a month.
“Three drivers of older cars locked out the podium last time out at Oschersleben, which I obviously liked a lot. That showed that the DTM concept works – practically every driver can score points.”
“I'm glad Alex is fit again and can drive for Audi Sport Team Phoenix at the Eurospeedway,” added Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. “Obviously we were all hoping Tom could race again as well, however he needs more recuperation to fully recover from the effects of his serious accident. At this time the doctors are unable to predict when he will be 100 per cent fit again, but Tom will get all the time in the world from us.
“With Markus we have taken a talented young man on-board, who demonstrated his talent in 2004 during his first DTM season and has done an excellent job as a Formula 1 test-driver. He will be available to us for other events too should Tom be absent for a longer period of time.”