DTM » 7 June 2004
Lausitz 2004: Ekström wins after Paffett DSQ.
The leading trio - the stars of the show so far this season - all headed for their mandatory pit-stop on lap five and, when the cycle unfolded, Ekstrom continued to head the field from Paffett. Albers, however, had lost ground with an off-track excursion just two laps after resuming, and was not close enough to take advantage of Paffett's first attempts to find his way past the leading Audi.
Ekstrom made his second pit call on lap twelve, allowing his British rival to lead for a lap before making his own second stop. Once again, Paffett rejoined the fray right on the Swede's tail, but had to tail him for another seven laps before finally forcing his way through at the first turn. The scrap had also allowed Albers to close back in, the Dutchman having had to pass Mercedes' reigning champion Bernd Schneider in the process of recovering his position.
With Paffett gradually breaking away from his pursuers, Ekstrom and Albers resumed the physical combat that had begun at round two in Portugal, making contact on more than one occasion but without altering the order.
"When I spotted Christijan and Bernd Schneider in my rear-view mirror, I knew that I'd have to fight hard to keep my second place," Ekstrom said, before being notified of Paffett's exclusion, "The duels with Albers were tough but fair - we've exchanged lots of blue and silver paint recently - but, in the DTM, every millimetre counts. If you want to be at the very front of the field, you have to drive hard and right at the limit. I think we put on a spectacular show for the audience today - even though this may have put quite a strain on the nerves of my pit crew!"
Behind them, Schneider headed a train comprising Laurent Aiello and Jean Alesi, but had the upper hand on his two veteran rivals and eased out to a three-second advantage by the chequered flag. The two 'As' continued to scrap right up to the flag - thrilling the packed 74,000 crowd almost as much as the battle for second spot - with Aiello grabbing fourth for Opel after resisting his compatriot to the flag.
"I'm very happy to finish in the top five having started from so far back," Aiello reckoned, "If I had a better starting position, with the car I had today I feel it would have been possible to win - the car was that good. It was a shame about the yellow flag situation in qualifying, because I didn't see one."
A second Opel, driven by Timo Scheider, also appeared to be on course for points before Paffett's exclusion, and heading Audi sportscar veteran Emanuele Pirro into the closing stages. However, a brush with the Audi of Martin Tomczyk proved costly after the event, with a 50-second penalty dropping the Opel to an unrepresentative 17th at the flag.
Scheider had stayed out for a long first run following the first corner incident, and caught the race leaders after their first pit-stops. He was able to comfortably keep up - and even close on the frontrunners before his stop - a pace that allowed him to jump up to a staggering eighth position by the halfway point. However, that late collision with Tomczyk proved costly. A similar incident with Markus Winkelhock's Mercedes meant that Dumbreck was forced to observe a drive-through penalty, and he finished down in twelfth.
Pirro, despite running a temperature and being involved in the collision right at the start of the race and dropping to the rear of the field, finished sixth, scoring three more points for Audi Sport Infineon Team Joest.
"I'm very happy about my result, because before the start I wasn't sure if I'd be able to stick it out," the Italian admitted, "I've been running a temperature and have had to take medication. The race was tough and, what's more, it started badly, as I was flung around right in the first corner. But then I found a good rhythm and was able to catch up one place after another."
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