Mattias Ekström has vowed to maintain his all-out attack on the 2008 DTM laurels until he can mathematically no longer claim the trophy, after pulling a superb recovery performance out of the bag to come home third on the series' annual British visit to Brands Hatch last weekend.
The defending DTM Champion – and also 2004 king – was stymied by gearbox woes in qualifying, preventing him from demonstrating his true pace and leaving him back in seventh position on the starting grid, more than three tenths of a second shy of pole.
From there the Swede – competing in his 80th race in the pan-European tin-top series – made good work of an audacious pit-stop strategy that saw him delay his first stop until lap 43, far later than any other driver, and the ploy worked to perfection.
His cause was aided by his Audi crew providing him with the quickest pit-stop of the race when he came in for the second time on lap 59, allowing him to close right in on long-time leaders Timo Scheider and Paul di Resta in the race's latter stages, getting to within barely four seconds of victory at the chequered flag.
“I was really happy to finish third,” Ekström told Crash.net Radio
. “When I came to Brands I was expecting to go for victory, but still P3 was okay.
“We were expecting to have a little bit more of a clear track than we did have, but I was really happy that we managed to come up to third place. We still have 30 points to race for [in the championship], and I will race until I can't win anymore.”
Indeed, the 30-year-old now sits exactly ten points adrift of championship pace-setter and Audi works team-mate Scheider, just a single marker shy of battling Mercedes-Benz stars Jamie Green and Brands Hatch runner-up di Resta and under little real threat from behind. Along with Green, Ekström is the only driver to have scored in each of the eight races to-date in 2008.
“I came to Brands Hatch to win the race,” he admitted, “but after my gearbox problems in qualifying I unfortunately had to change my goals a bit.
“Driving from seventh on the grid onto the podium was a fantastic thing. My A4 was strong in the race and I was able to attack and overtake, so at the end of the day I was satisfied with the result.
“The fight for the championship isn't over yet. Although a ten-point gap to Timo is a lot, quite a bit can happen in the DTM, particularly during the dramatic final phase of the season.”
“Mattias driving from seventh place to third was a real feat,” added Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, “both on his part and the part of the team, which enabled a good strategy. We can be happy in every respect.”
by Russell Atkins