Former DTM champion Mattias Ekström has called it ‘a perfect day’ after taking victory at Zandvoort – ending a 12-race winless streak for Audi in the penultimate race of the season.
Ekström benefitted the most from four safety car interventions in the eventful race, emerging after the final neutralisation as the best-placed driver on the advantageous option tyres.
A storming drive in the final ten laps therefore saw the Swede come from eighth to first in a matter of laps to score his 18th career victory in the series and move up to second in the championship standings with just one race to go.
“Many people are saying that fortune played a role in this because the safety car helped – and they’re right,” said Ekström of his win. “But in my 14 years in the DTM I’ve learned that fortune alone is not enough. You’ve got to be fast, the strategy has got to fit and the pit stop has to be perfect – today we managed all of this: a perfect day in the life of a racer.
“After the first safety car period, I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure where I was because I didn’t know who benefited the most from it. But the crew in the pit lane is prepared for these situations, kept a cool head and continually kept me up to speed.”
Zandvoort has been the scene of not only his first-ever win in the DTM, but also the circuit at which Ekström has tasted the most success. Consequently, Ekström admits that the venue has ‘special significance’ for him.
“My first victory was twelve years ago – almost to the day,” added the 36-year-old. “That day back then wasn’t only unique for me but for the whole team because Laurent Aïello took the first DTM title at the same time. The track has had a special significance for me ever since. It always feels a bit like coming home whenever I travel to the circuit on the North Sea.”
Audi’s Head of DTM Dieter Gass admits that he and the rest of the team “had the jitters” during the race, which also saw Mike Rockenfeller slip from a race-winning position into obscurity as a result of the same safety cars which aided Ekström.
“Obviously, we’re happy to have finally clinched our first season victory,” said Gass. “We often had the opportunity this year but something always got in the way. Today, we again had the jitters for a long time. But Mattias had the right strategy for this crazy race and in the end was extremely strong on option tyres.
“You could tell how comfortable the Audi RS 5 DTM feels at Zandvoort. The drivers who were struck by the greatest misfortune today were Nico Müller and Mike Rockenfeller. The second safety car was deployed at exactly the wrong moment for them. ‘Rocky’ would have been hard to beat today.”