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Hockenheim 2007: Ekstrom pinches opener

22 April 2007

Mattias Ekstrom has ended Mercedes' four-year stranglehold on victories at Hockenheim after leading home an Audi 1-2 in the first round of the 2007 DTM season, a race that initially threatened to be another Mercedes Hockenheim display.

The first time a driver hailing from the Ingolstadt marque has stepped atop of the podium at the former German Grand Prix venue since Laurent Aiello in 2002, Ekstrom triumphed from fellow Abt Sportsline driver Martin Tomczyk to get Audi's season off to a strong start.

Still, while they missed out on the leading positions, Mercedes can still take heart from locking out the remaining points positions, led initially by Bruno Spengler but eventually Daniel La Rosa when the Candian was penalised.

However, it was a relatively sombre Audi that took the spoils at Hockenheim after seeing three of their cars destroyed on the opening lap following a massive smash involving Tom Kristensen, Alexandre Premat, Adam Carroll and Mercedes' Susie Stoddart.

Kristensen had spun after contact with Timo Scheider and was hit heavily by the unsighted Premat, while Carroll and Stoddart were also forced to retire. Kristensen and Premat were taken to hospital where their condition is under review [see separate story].

The race restarted some 30 minutes later, with Spengler not timing his getaway well and slipping to third behind new leader Tomczyk and Mercedes counterpart Paul di Resta.

Aggrieved by his mistake at the start, Spengler wasted no time in dismissing di Resta for second and immediately began applying pressure to Tomczyk, who had built a comfortable 1.5secs lead over di Resta in just three laps.

Nonetheless, it took just two more revolutions of the Hockenheim circuit for Spengler to apply pressure to Tomczyk, the German duly responding by locking up and running wide at the hairpin, allowing Spengler into the lead and di Resta back up to second place.

It took just six laps for the first round of pit stops to get underway, Ekstrom and Jamie Green the first to visit their crews, their entries kick starting a flurry of activity that shook up the running order.

However, any hopes that di Resta could challenge for the race win were ruined when he stalled following his first pit-stop and although it brought him out just behind Spengler again, it seemed a late pit strategy was not going to pay dividends today.

It was here that Ekstrom and Tomczyk's strategy of pitting earlier than their rivals was beginning to pay off, the duo making the most of Spengler and di Resta's fading pace to vault into first and second with just two laps to go when the Scot was forced to make his second mandatory pit stop agonisingly close to the chequered flag.

Instead, Ekstrom was there to cross the line first in a race he led just two of the shortened 27 lap distance, with team-mate Tomczyk following him closely over the finish line for a surprise Audi 1-2.

Spengler was a rather frustrated third in a race he led the majority of, although even he had to battle for that position on the final lap when he and Timo Scheider came together, the latter dropping to tenth and being unable to complete what would have been an all Audi podium.

As such, Spengler was later penalised for his part in the clash and recieved a 50-second time penalty, dropping him to 14th.

Third was thus inherited by Daniel La Rosa, the German producing his finest result yet as he embarks on his second season in the DTM, while Alex Margaritis, di Resta, Green, reigning champion Bernd Schneider and Gary Paffett rounded out the points for the three-pointed star.


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