Zandvoort 2004: Ekstrom strengthens grip on title
5 September 2004
Mattias Ekstrom has strengthened his grip on the DTM title with victory in an action packed race at Zandvoort.
The Audi driver clinched his third win of the season as he led home a second straight one-two finish for the team to extend his lead at the top to 13 points with 20 points left to play for.
Martin Tomcyzk played his part, following Ekstrom home in second, with Christijan Albers completing the podium for Mercedes.
Ekstrom had been leading the race, with his title rivals Albers and Gary Paffett running down the order – Paffett having been hit with a drive through penalty - when a huge accident from the Opel of Peter Dumbreck forced the race to be stopped.
Heading out of the final corner, Dumbreck went straight on into the barrier, the Vectra smashing into the tyre wall before rolling to a standstill on the start/finish straight.
With debris all over the track, race officials had little option but to show the red flag and halt the race.
Despite the violent nature of the accident, and the enormous amount of damage done to the car, the Scottish driver escaped without injury.
“The best news of the day is that Peter Dumbreck is well,” Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek said afterwards. “Peter is already back sitting with his racing engineer looking at the data recordings. The cause of the accident was that Peter was too fast and came a bit off his line. The problem was that the car practically got hooked into the stack of tyres and therefore flipped over several times.
“The crash would certainly have been much more serious had there not have been that tyre stack. It says a lot for the high safety standards of the DTM cars that nothing happened to Peter.”
With less than 75% of the race run at the time of the accident, the race became a ten lap sprint, with the cars lining up on the grid as they had been running two laps before Dumbreck went off track.
In front of a record 73,000 crowd, Ekstrom led away at the restart with teammate Tomczyk tucking in behind him. Albers had a great start to pass Paffett, Bernd Schneider and Emanuele Pirro to slot into third but despite harrying Tomczyk throughout the sprint, he was unable to take the place and had to settle for third place.
However he wasn't too downhearted having started down the order.
“It was yet another fantastic home race for me,” he said. “The atmosphere and the amount of fans were even better than last year. It's just great to be supported by the spectators. I'm pleased for the fans that I drove onto the podium despite starting in seventh position.”
Paffett also made his way up the order, his fourth place finish enough to ensure that he heads to the penultimate round at Brno with a chance of taking the title – albeit a slight one, the gap to Ekstrom now 16 points.
However fifth place was not enough to keep Schneider in the title hunt although he was focusing on his Mercedes teammates afterwards.
"A turbulent race,” he said. “After quite a good qualifying result I had expected more for today. However, it's important that Christijan and Gary still have a theoretical chance of the title."
Behind Schneider, Tom Kristensen and Pirro took sixth and seventh, with Manuel Reuter the top Opel finisher in eighth.
He was disappointed with the result, and also with the regulations that saw the restart decided by the positions two laps earlier, meaning he was eighth for the restart instead of sixth, the position he was in when Dumbreck crashed.
“I'm not satisfied with my result today as a finish in the top five would have been realistic,” he said. “We were competitive. From a sporting point of view it's frustrating that I was in sixth position before the race was stopped, but that I was pushed two places back in the restart due to regulations.”
But the day belonged to Ekstrom, who can now clinch the title in the Czech Republic if results go his way.
“This is a great day for me,” he said. “My car was just perfect, my first start brilliant and I absolutely controlled the race until it was stopped due to the accident. It was a bit harder after the new start. A new start always harbours a new risk, but everything went perfectly.
“I'm very pleased for my team mate Martin Tomczyk as well as our double victory. Today means a major step towards the Championship title, thanks also to Martin, whose second place-finish took valuable points away from those chasing me.
“An advantage of 13 points may be a good cushion, but you can never feel too safe in the DTM.”
Next up Brno in two weeks time.