Zandvoort 2008: Ekstrom wins, Audi dominate
13 July 2008
Mattias Ekstrom has taken his first DTM victory of the season as Audi dominated proceedings for the second year in a row around the Zandvoort circuit in the Netherlands.
The Swede led relatively comfortably from start to finish, even if he had to resist the race-long attentions of team-mate Timo Scheider, the pair separated by little more than a second throughout the 38 lap encounter.
Regardless of the order though, Audi were in imperious form around one of their favourite circuits to repeat their 1-2-3-4 performance from last year. This time, however, it was all four 2008-specification machines locking out the top four positions.
The order was largely determined at the start when pole sitter Ekstrom defended from Scheider off the line, while Tom Kristensen held onto his third place and Martin Tomczyk leapt up to fourth from sixth when Jamie Green produced an awful start from the second row of the grid.
Green's poor start, which dropped him to seventh, effectively set the tone of the race for the Mercedes team as they struggled to stay on terms with the Audi A4s. Indeed, once Audi had commanded the top four positions, they simply romped away from fifth place Bruno Spengler at a rapid rate.
Mercedes did at least try, the Stuttgart manufacturer pulling in their cars for both of their pit-stops relatively early, but other than fighting amongst themselves, they never looked capable of challenging for anything other than the scraps.
Instead, it was left to Ekstrom and Scheider to battle it out at the front, albeit cautiously as they sought to score maximum points for the team. The race swung between the drivers throughout the race, with Ekstrom having the slight edge on his team-mate in the early part of the race, before Scheider launched a sterling fight back in the final laps to cross the line just 0.2secs behind.
Indeed, Scheider's hopes of victory were effectively dashed when he endured a tardy second pit-stop, one that left him with little chance to have a genuine shot at overtaking Ekstrom.
Nonetheless, the German maintains his championship lead over Ekstrom now, the reigning champion also recording his first win of the season on his birthday.
Kristensen was a very quiet third, the Dane holding off a racy looking Tomczyk during the first stint before eking away to cross the line six seconds behind the leaders. 2007 Zandvoort winner Tomczyk finished four seconds further back.
Spengler flew the flag for Mercedes in fifth, the Canadian finishing a clear 21 seconds behind the race leaders as he battled away with Green in the latter stages. The Brit was arguably the fastest C-Class driver through the race but after being caught behind Paul di Resta in the early stages, didn't leave himself enough time to make much more progress. di Resta, meanwhile, dropped back dramatically after a strong start to finish seventh
Markus Winkelhock, Bernd Schneider and Mike Rockenfeller, meanwhile, provided what little entertainment there was as they disputed eighth place. Rockenfeller held the spot from the very first lap, but was forced to defend vigorously from Schneider on the penultimate exchange coming out of the Vodafone curve.
However, when the two began panel bashing, it proved to be all Winkelhock, who had been keeping a watching brief just behind, needed to sweep opportunistically past both drivers to be classified as the best of the 2007-specification machines and score the final point.
As for the remaining British contingent, Gary Paffett was next best in an anonymous 11th, with Susie Stoddart crossing the line in 15th. Oliver Jarvis and Katherine Legge both retired.