Jamie Green delivered Mercedes-Benz its maiden victory of the 2008 DTM campaign in round three at Mugello this weekend, as the three-pointed star finally brought an end to Audi's domination of the season so far.
Mercedes had looked almost second-rate in relation to its Ingolstadt rival in the opening two meetings at Hockenheim and Oschersleben, with Audi drivers monopolising not only the top step of the rostrum, but also the leading three positions in the title chase. No longer.
Better still for the Stuttgart manufacturer was the fact that Paul di Resta took the chequered flag just over three seconds behind Green in second place, catapulting Mercedes back into contention for outright honours. The duo were aided by pole-sitter Timo Scheider receiving a drive-through penalty for a jump-start, leaving the championship leader down in a frustrated tenth position at the close just behind Bruno Spengler, who had qualified sixth but lost as many places following an opening lap collision.
“I am happy with this victory, especially after a start of the season that has been particularly difficult for all of us,” enthused a delighted Green after sealing the third triumph of his DTM career, his third win from the last five races and a result that has vaulted him up into second place in the championship, just a single marker adrift of Scheider, who narrowly retained his overall advantage despite failing to score.
“I had a good start and was well able to control the race and the margin over the cars behind me,” the Briton continued. “I am happy with victory, and we are proud of what we have achieved today. In the DTM, there is no way to predict anything and this year is tougher for us than last year.”
“I reckon that Mercedes-Benz and I can be equally happy with this result,” added di Resta, who matched the best performance of his DTM career with second place. “We have been working hard and had to wait for a long time to make it onto the podium.
“The weekend didn't go that well for me – I was lacking consistency all the time. Yesterday's qualifying wasn't too good as I made a slight mistake and had to start from fifth place today. I am all-the-more happy with my second place.”
Tom Kristensen finished where he had started to be the best-placed Audi driver in third on a disappointing day for the marque, just over five seconds adrift of Green. The man known as 'Mr Le Mans' lost out after he rejoined the circuit following his first pit-stop behind Susie Stoddart, enabling Green and di Resta to pull clear.
“The DTM is really tough,” the Dane reflected. “I am more-or-less happy with the result and I am happy with being on the podium again. My car was excellent and the team did two great pit-stops. Jamie Green really deserved this victory; he drove a great race.”
Five-time series king Bernd Schneider made it three Mercedes' in the top four with fourth spot, ahead of Oliver Jarvis, who registered the finest result of his fledgling tin-top career courtesy of an impressively composed performance – and with it secured the honour of first 2007-spec machine past the finishing post. The final points-scorers were completed by the Audi trio of reigning champion Mattias Ekström, Markus Winkelhock and Alex Prémat.
Martin Tomczyk – until Mugello holding second position in the drivers' standings – endured a nightmare race, colliding with fellow Audi ace Mike Rockenfeller on the opening lap in a contre-temps that also accounted for Formula 1 refugee Ralf Schumacher. Tomczyk was forced to pit for repairs – leaving him down in an unrepresentative 17th place at the chequered flag – whilst Schumacher toured around to the pits and into retirement at the end of lap four.
With the next round of the series due to take place at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz on 18 May, and the top seven drivers in the rankings now separated by just seven points, both Mercedes and Audi are aware there is much to play for over the remainder of the campaign.
“It was a great race,” underlined Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director Norbert Haug. “We had a good strategy, quick pit-stops and our speed was good. In qualifying yesterday and this morning after the warm-up, it didn't look like that, but sometimes differences in temperature of only three or four degrees can have an effect on the set-up.
“The team has done a great job and found exactly the right set-up for this temperature. All-in-all, I am very happy. We have deserved this victory, but it came earlier than I had expected.”
“I am not happy with the result,” countered a disappointed Audi Motorsport Director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “Apparently Mugello doesn't suit us, as we just don't succeed in repeating our qualifying results in the race. It is clear that we lost the race at the start. Additionally, some things happened in the first couple of corners, which mixed up the order.
“At a track like this, making up [time] during the race is very difficult, especially when your opponent is quick, has good tactics and does good pit-stops. We will continue to give everything and now we are focussing on the next race to try to win it. I am very pleased with the performance of our 2007-spec cars, which were absolutely competitive and showed some good fights between them.”
To see the race results in full, click here