To say tyre problems were an issue at the latest round of the DTM series in Dijon-Prenois would be an understatement.
Four of the frontrunning Audis suffered punctures during the race on Sunday (October 11), and despite tiptoeing around the Dijon circuit to try to save his precious rubber, as instructed by his team, Mattias Ekström suffered a late blowout that saw him classified ninth and out of the points.
“I had a perfect car and loads of confidence. After my first pitstop, I was leading the race,” said the frustrated Swede. “After 20 laps, the team informed me that I should choose a safe driving style. That’s what I did up to the end of the race. But it wasn’t enough to save the tyres all the way.”
Timo Scheider, Ekström’s title rival going into Sunday’s action, stormed from 16th on the grid to sixth place in spite of his own puncture problems. It was an excellent performance, though the German did concede that, compared to Ekström, he’d been lucky.
“Of course, I was a little fortunate that the puncture struck me so close to the pitlane entrance, which meant that I didn’t lose too much time,” Scheider commented.
'It was all about playing safe and finishing' – Martin Tomczyk
Another driver forced to sacrifice speed to try to secure a finish was Red Bull Cola Audi driver Martin Tomczyk, another early casualty of tyre problems, who finished seventh behind his countryman Scheider.
“Before the first pitstop, I had a slow puncture. That’s why I had to slowly drive to the pits and lost a lot of time,” said Tomczyk, who also received the call to slow down in the latter stages after posting some excellent lap times. “The final phase of the race was a little curious. It was all about playing it safe and finishing,” he added.
The Mercedes runners benefitted from Audi’s misfortunes with a top-five lockout, Gary Paffett, Paul di Resta and Bruno Spengler filling the podium spots. The championship now rests on what happens at Hockenheim on October 23–25 in the final round of this year’s series, with Scheider leading Paffett by seven points. Ekström’s misfortunes saw him fall behind Paffett into third, his title hopes at an end.
DTM championship standings
Timo Scheider (Germany), Audi – 56pts
Gary Paffett (Great Britain), Mercedes-Benz – 49pts
Mattias Ekström (Sweden), Audi – 41pts