One of the fastest-growing auto racing tours in Europe, the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) series launched into its 2012 season with a 40-lap main event at the 4.574-mile Hockenheimring GP Circuit April 29th.
Winning 7 of the 10 official DTM races last season with the Audi A4, the 2012 season presented a major transition for the German auto manufacturer. Firstly, their 2011 DTM championship-winning driver Martin Tomczyk defected to the newly-activated BMW effort in the series (BMW returns to DTM competition for the first time since 1993). Drivers Mattias Ekström for Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline and Mike Rockenfeller with Audi Sport Team Phoenix are favoured to be lead contenders for the championship title in Audi’s 2012 DTM effort.
Bracing for fierce competition with luxury car rival BMW’s M3 and Mercedes-AMG’s C-Coupe in the DTM series, Audi decided to retire the A4 from series in 2012. Replacing the steadfast performance of the sedan, the A5 coupe carries the integrity of the four rings. The Audi A5 DTM car conforms to new series regulations designed to standardize the parts among the three manufacturers for better competition and reduced costs. Despite what these vehicles might share, Audi was determined to demonstrate they still have an edge on their DTM competition.
After months of testing for all manufacturer and teams, Mattias Ekström started the career of the Audi A5 off right during Saturday’s qualifying. Scoring pole in the #3 Red Bull-sponsored Audi A5 at the Hockenheimring GP Circuit, Ekström entered Sunday needing to hold into this position over 40 laps in order to usher in 2012 victory. In front of the 22-car field, the #3 Audi A5’s chance of an early season win promising as Ekström led through the first four laps of the DTM main event. Unfortunately, Mattias Ekström efforts were thwarted by mistimed braking into turn two on lap 5. Ekström and the Red Bull Audi A5 lost the lead to Mercedes-AMG driver Jamie Green.
Ultimately in the Hockenheimring event, the Mercedes-AMG C-Coupes were just too strong in the season opener of the 2012 DTM series. Winning the event was #11 Mercedes-AMG C-Coupe of Gary Paffett finishing ahead of Jamie Green’s car. After 40 laps, Ekström brought the A5 of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline across the finish line 19.4 seconds behind Paffett in 3rd place. “It’s always nice to be on podium. Our aim today was to be at the very top. Unfortunately, we only managed third place.” said the two-time DTM champion and lead Audi driver Mattias Ekström after the Hockenheimring event.
In fifth place, the #9 Schaffler-sponsored Audi A5 of Mike Rockenfeller secured a hard-earned top-5. “The race was very strenuous, I had a good start. After that, I was struggling because we’d changed the brake beforehand and tire pressure was a bit low. I had to let (Gary) Paffett pass at the start.” said Rockenfeller. In front of 142,000 spectators over the course of the race weekend, the Audi A5 DTM cars had four cars placed in the top- 10 with Miguel Molina crossing the line 9th and Filipe Albuquerque’s A5 finishing 10th.
While some of the Audi A5s were able to fight for top runs on the Hockenheimring road course, brand drivers Timo Scheider and Adrien Tambay had less than stellar finishes caused by on track incidents. The #4 Auto Test-sponsored Audi A5 of Scheider dropped out of the competition on lap 13 after race contact. “After running as the last car in the field I managed to advance to 14th place.” Timo Scheider commented about his early race run. “Then I overtook Roberto Mehri under braking and he hit my car. After that the car was so heavily damaged that it made no more sense to keep on driving.”
Calling his race result a shame, France’s Adrien Tambay spent only lap 3 behind the wheel of his Audi A5 DTM car before retiring. “ On lap one everything was going really well and I was shooting for seventh place. But then an accident happened in front of me and there was a lot of commotion. I was right in the middle of a sandwich.” said Tambay. The French driver would add, “Still, I take positive stock of my first DTM weekend and am already looking forward to the Lausitzring.”
Viewing the race as a whole for the new Audi A5 DTM car, Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich said, “It was nice that we were able to decide the new DTM’s first qualifying event with Mattias Ekström’s pole position. Naturally, we wanted to convert that into victory as well. Yet we were lacking the race performance to do so today.”
Completing the first of ten point-scoring DTM events in 2012, the Lausitzring is next on May 6th. “Now it’s our task to do everything we can so that we won’t be able to only show a perfect performance in qualifying but also in the race at the Lausitzring.” proclaimed Dr. Ullrich.
Information and photo source: Audi AG, DTM