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Ekström out for glory; Abt bids farewell
1 January 1901
Championship leader Mattias Ekström is eagerly anticipating this weekend's title-deciding finale at Hockenheim, as he returns to the scene of his season-opening success brimful of confidence.
The Swede – DTM champion back in 2004 – leads Mercedes' Bruno Spengler by two points in the drivers' standings, with Audi Team Abt Sportsline team-mate Martin Tomczyk two points further back in third, and all three of them with a keen eye on the laurels. Ekström, though, is the only one of the trio to have triumphed before, and will be hoping his experience of handling high-pressure situations will give him an advantage as the campaign reaches its climax.
“I'm looking forward to the finale at Hockenheim,” the 29-year-old enthused. “I won the first race there at the start of the year, and I can hardly wait to return and fight for the championship. It will be a tough race.”
Fellow Audi ace Christian Abt, meanwhile, will be making his valedictory appearance in the DTM at the end of seven seasons of competition. Though he has scored just four points this year courtesy of sixth place in Zandvoort and eighth spot at Brands Hatch in his year-old Audi Sport Team Phoenix machine, the German is clearly hoping to sign off on a high.
“It will be an emotional weekend for me because it is my last in the DTM,” the 40-year-old admitted. “I'm really looking forward to it, and it would be great to bow out with a good result.”
Prior to the action, the inaugural 'Audi Kettcar Challenge' will take place in the Hockenheim paddock on Friday afternoon, pitting all of the Ingolstadt marque's ten DTM stars against each other in a light-hearted warm-up before the main event.
Last year the Audi mechanics proved their creativity by producing beautifully-crafted paper boats. This time the task in-hand is to transform the 'Original Kettcars' – supplied by renowned company Kettler – into mini Audi DTM pedal cars.
Like the boat race in 2006, this fun event is not only a question of physical strength and speed. A jury comprising Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich and four journalists will assess the originality of the Audi DTM-Kettcars before the race, with the marks awarded determining the starting grid for both heats. Each winner and second-placed finisher will then qualify for the grand final.
In the evening, directly in front of the Audi VIP Lounge in the Hockenheimring paddock, the Kettcars will take to the Kettler-designed circuit, which is about 75 metres long and four metres wide including a chicane and hairpin. The race-winning machine will subsequently be auctioned off for a good cause after the race.
“Obviously, the Kettcar race should not distract us from the job awaiting us on Sunday,” insisted Ullrich, “but we saw last year during the boat race that having fun and winning in no way whatsoever exclude one another.
“Barcelona is now history for us. I hope we will see a clean fight and that the champion is decided by fair means – in a way that we usually associate with touring car racing. We will give our all to bring the championship to Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm. That would be a reward for the strong team performance we have shown this year.”
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