Markus Winkelhock is determined to prove that drivers behind the wheel of 2007-spec machinery still have a chance to shoot for glory in the DTM this year, as he heads into the opening round of the new campaign at his 'home' circuit of Hockenheim.
The young German – who previously competed in the leading pan-European tin-top series back in 2004 with Audi's rival Mercedes, though without any great success – has Mattias Ekström's 2007 championship-winning car at his disposal this year, and he put it to good use in pre-season testing by lapping fastest of all at Mugello.
“I'm not putting myself under pressure,” the 27-year-old Audi Sport Team Rosberg ace insisted, “but I'm really eager to contest my first race as an official Audi factory driver. For one thing, Hockenheim is my home track and for the other, the season is finally starting.
“Hockenheim is a circuit that suits me quite well. At Oschersleben I haven't driven any races in several years, but I used to get along well with the circuit. In 1998, I celebrated my first-ever victory there. That was in Formula König, and I have pleasant memories of it, so I'm looking forward to the second race of the season as well.”
The series' older cars have the advantage of running with less weight, and Winkelhock's team-mate Mike Rockenfeller seemed to confirm their potential by pacing the final day of testing at Oschersleben in the machine campaigned by Tom Kristensen throughout 2007.
“I'm expecting better results than last year,” asserted 'Rocky', who achieved a career-best finish of third place at Oschersleben during his debut season in the championship, “and I would like to finish in the points regularly. At Oschersleben, I had a great exploit last year – it would be nice if we could repeat this.
“It's tough in the DTM but I'll be giving my best. I think that with the 2007-spec car we'll have a clearly better base than last year.”
Alex Prémat, meanwhile, made a strong impression in the series en route
to eleventh spot in the final drivers' standings for Audi Sport Team Phoenix in 2007, and remaining with the squad for 2008, the Frenchman is in confident frame of mind.
“I'm really looking forward to starting my second DTM season at Hockenheim,” the former GP2 race-winner claimed, “and I want to leave a good impression. We should definitely be able to manage this because the 2007-spec cars were very quick at Hockenheim last year. Why shouldn't a podium be possible again with a 2007 model?