Audi's DTM squad is looking forward to the season-opener at Hockenheim with increased optimism after a strong showing at at the first official group test at Mugello.

The nine factory drivers completed their extensive programme without significant interruption, and the first 'matching of strength' with the competition from Mercedes saw them running among the frontrunners in constantly changing weather conditions.

After internal testing, the outing at Mugello might have marked the first meeting of the newly-developed Audi A4 DTM with the opposition, but the three days in Italy were not primarily focused on setting top times. More importantly, the retained veterans were there to familiarise themselves in greater depth with the latest generation of DTM titlewinner, while newcomers Oliver Jarvis and Katherine Legge made their official test d?buts.

Legge's track time was reduced as her Futurecom team allowed former Mercedes frontrunner Christijan Albers to test its two-year old A4 with a view to becoming the Briton's team-mate this season, but she enjoyed the outing nonetheless.

"After our winter training camp, this was my first real running as a member of the Audi family," Legge confirmed, "I felt very comfortable right from the start, and the test was very positive for me. Although I drove only on a wet track, I learnt something new on every lap."

Second year driver Alex Pr?mat, who was among the surprises in last year's field of drivers, managed a successful start to his season as, in all weather conditions, the Frenchman displayed his strengths and achieved the day's best time on Tuesday.

"These were great days of testing," Premat commented, "We were at the front of the field in all conditions. That's a tremendous feeling and inspires even more enthusiasm for the new season."

Reigning champion Mattias Ekstr?m, who drove his new A4 DTM with the #1 plate for the first time at Mugello, is another driver now eagerly awaiting the season-opener.

"On the three test days, we had all kinds of weather conditions - rain, sun and a drying track - and that's perfect for working, because it allows you to try out all the options. The best part about it, though, is that the start to the season has come a bit closer again. All the mechanics, engineers and drivers are incredibly excited about the upcoming race at Hockenheim."

Ekstr?m was joined on track by Audi Sport team-mates Tom Kristensen, Timo Scheider and Martin Tomczyk, although the test was not always smooth for the trio as, on Monday, Scheider had a shock when he hit a kerb on the wet track and slid backwards into the barriers with his test prototype.

The Audi squad will have another test session, this time at Oschersleben, in the week leading up to the DTM launch, in D?sseldorf, on 6 April, with the season-opening race at Hockenheim the following weekend.