Mattias Ekstrom is the new DTM champion, after clinching his first title a round early with an impressive start-finish win at the Czech circuit of Brno. The Audi star now has an unassailable lead in the overall standings, leading by 20 points ahead of the season finale at the Hockenheimring in two weeks' time.
Audi team-mate Tom Kristensen made it a weekend to remember for the marque - which only returned to the series on an official basis at the start of the season - by coming home second ahead of Mercedes-Benz driver Gary Paffett. It was the third double 1-2 result for Audi in as many races.
“It is a fantastic day for me," Ekstrom enthused, "I think that was the nicest race of the season, although it wasn't easy. I tried to drive constant lap times and concentrate on bringing the car safely into the finish. It's going to be a long night today.”
Kristensen was equally happy with another podium result, and has some nice things to say about a team-mate who, for a Dane, would normally be the man to beat.
"Mattias is a truly deserving champion," Kristensen insisted, "He's a great guy, he has a natural talent, he has car control, and he's got lots of experience in the DTM and in the team. These are five things that he's put together perfectly. And if a Dane has so many positive things to say about a Swede, that really means something."
“I'm over the moon," commented Audi motorsport director Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, "Mattias has done an excellent and flawless job the entire season and therefore truly deserved this title. I also want to thank the Abt team, which worked equally excellently.
"Winning the title in the first year of the 'works' comeback is a success for Audi that one can't rate highly enough. That's because the DTM is the best and toughest touring car series in the world. I'm convinced that we'll see a fantastic race at the finale in Hockenheim in two weeks – everyone will be trying to prove one more time that he's the best.”
Thing weren't as clear-cut as the headlines make out, however, and the spectators witnessed a turbulent race.
While Ekström took the lead from pole position, second-placed Christijan Albers - the only driver with a 'real' chance of overhauling the Swede - was overtaken in the first turn by Martin Tomczyk and Kristensen. Albers, who lay 13 points behind Ekstrom heading to the Czech Republic, managed to recapture third place on the first lap but, after the first pit-stop, collided with Christian Abt's Audi.
The German spun, but was able to continue the race, but Albers wasn't done there. Another collision on the eighth lap, amid the fight for second position, ended Tomczyk's otherwise promising race, while Albers was slapped with a drive-through penalty for his part in the incident, all but ending his title hopes. To cement Ekstrom's success, the Dutchman then had to abandon his damaged car on lap 15.