DTM championship leader Timo Scheider is preparing to continue his close internecine scrap with Audi team-mate Mattias Ekstr?m when the circus resumes after its five-week summer break at Brands Hatch this weekend - but to do so, first he will need a change of luck at the Kent circuit.

The German - a series veteran despite his youthful 29 years - has produced some superb performances in 2008 to-date, with no fewer than three pole positions and five rostrum finishes from the first seven outings, including his maiden DTM victory at Oschersleben in round two and overtaking a brake-afflicted Ekstr?m into the very last corner at the Norisring to pinch the final spot up on the podium.

Scheider has more often than not been the Ingolstadt manufacturer's star driver this year - heading up the points standings since late April - but he does not boast a great record on British soil, finishing outside the points in tenth position during Brands' first appearance on the calendar in 2006 and colliding with team-mate Markus Winkelhock on the opening lap last season.

He returns there this year knowing that he will have to do considerably better than that if he is to continue to withstand the challenge of fellow factory Audi ace - and reigning DTM Champion - Ekstr?m, and achieve his goal of clinching the coveted end-of-season honours.

"We race at Brands Hatch with ten kilograms less than Mercedes," the Rhineland native explained. "This is a positive aspect, and we were fast at Brands Hatch last year.

"We've used the summer break to prepare meticulously for Brands Hatch - but also to have some holiday and recharge the batteries."

Ekstr?m, by contrast, has an impressive r?sum? at Brands - at just 1.9km in length, the shortest circuit on the DTM schedule - triumphing there in 2006 and adding to that with a third-place finish this time twelve months ago.

The Swede - set to make his 80th series start this weekend - has made clear his intent of fighting tooth-and-nail to retain his title, with successes in the 2008 curtain-raiser at Hockenheim and more recently at Zandvoort. He currently sits just six points adrift of Scheider in the title standings, the pair sandwiching Mercedes' Jamie Green.

"I think that we'll have a good Audi weekend at Brands Hatch," the double series champ asserted. "We were very fast there in 2006 and 2007; I've had a win and third place. I like the track and want revenge for what happened at the N?rburgring."

At the N?rburgring Ekstr?m was again out-braked by Scheider on the race's very final lap - this time for fifth position - but it is not only the two championship contenders who have high hopes for Brands Hatch, with sixth-placed Martin Tomczyk and eighth-placed Tom Kristensen both able to reflect on encouraging past performances there.

The former took the chequered flag second in 2007, while 'Mr Le Mans' Kristensen was cruelly robbed of victory in the closing stages a year earlier, when his car let him down almost within sight of the finish line.

"Brands Hatch is a great race track - very short, very narrow," enthused Tomczyk. "I was second there last year; it was a good race. The English fans are always very enthusiastic about the DTM, which is why I particularly look forward to this race."

"Brands Hatch 2006 was probably where I had my best DTM race ever - fastest in all practice sessions, pole position and 60 laps in the lead before the suspension broke!" reminisced Kristensen, who holds the DTM lap record at the circuit, and has joked that racing around its undulating, predominantly right-handed layout is like being in a spin-drier.

"Last year I was absent due to my accident, so I am obviously excited to see my speed around the little, but very demanding and interesting track. Hopefully I can repay all the energy and hard work my mechanics and engineers are putting in on my 'Edelweiss' A4."

Homegrown stars Oliver Jarvis and Katherine Legge also have special reason to be eagerly anticipating the weekend, with neither of them having competed on British soil for at least a year - Jarvis in 2006 in British F3, and Legge two years earlier still in junior single-seaters.

"It's fantastic to be racing again in Great Britain," stated Jarvis, who first competed at Brands back in 2002, having cheered his father on in the Formula Ford Festival there a decade beforehand at the age of just eight. "My last race here was more than a year ago. Brands Hatch is a special circuit with a great history. I want to get a good result for my fans and family."

"I'm absolutely delighted to be able to race in front of my home crowd," echoed former Champ Car leading lady Legge. "It's quite a while since I last competed in a race in England. I aim to improve again at Brands Hatch. I hope we have a good chance there with the 2006 car."

With 82 racing laps ahead, a thrilling and intensely close-fought spectacle is doubtless in-store, and as Audi bids to successfully defend its hard-fought championship crown for the first time since 1990/91, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich knows a solid points haul at Brands will be vital.

Audi has set five pole positions so far in 2008, and locked out the leading three grid positions in both of the last two outings - but its race performance at the N?rburgring was less convincing, with arch-rival Mercedes stealing each of the top four spots.

"Brands Hatch has been very good for us in the last two years," the Head of Audi Motorsport reflected. "I think that the new A4 will also function there very well. It's obviously a help that we start with less weight than the 2008 Mercedes.

"After the poor result at the N?rburgring, we are fully motivated to score as many points for Audi as possible and to increase our championship lead."

"The final spurt in the championship begins at Brands Hatch," added Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline team director Hans-J?rgen Abt. "With Timo leading, our basis for the final assault is very good. We have a good chance of winning at Brands, where Audi has a good track record. Mattias has already won there, and we were very competitive last year."


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