With the final weekend of the 2017 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters season set to get underway this coming Friday at Hockenheim, Audi Sport is in prime position to secure a clean sweep of all three titles at the Baden-Württemberg circuit, and could see this feat be repeated for the first time since BMW’s return in 2012.
Out of all three brands in the series, the Ingolstadt marque has asserted its good form all season, with the RS5 DTM having taken the most wins this year with seven to their credit.
In the fight for the drivers’ title, four of Audi’s ranks are in contention for the top step of the championship podium, with one in particular set to make his own mark in the series’ history.
It has been a decade since Mattias Ekström last won a drivers’ crown, who leads by just 21 points coming into the final round, but has the opportunity to become the third driver in DTM history to secure three or more titles, joining both Bernd Schneider and Klaus Ludwig in doing so.
“Obviously, I have an advantage,” admitted the Swede, who took the drivers’ title with Audi in 2004 and 2007.
“But we’re nowhere near anything having been decided yet. I have to drive a good race and am entering the finale just like any other weekend. After all, 56 points are yet to be scored.”
The 39-year-old has René Rast, Jamie Green and 2013 champion Mike Rockenfeller for company this weekend, with the trio being separated by a mere 38 points.
Rast has already made a veritable impression in his first season as a DTM rookie, taking three wins and starting from the front row six times this year, including two pole positions.
“I can only win and actually not lose anymore, so I’m not putting any pressure on myself,” admitted Rast, who feels that he needs to have a “perfect weekend” to become the first rookie in 24 years since Alfa Romeo’s Nicola Larini to take their first title.
“Who’d have thought before the season that I’d still be battling for the title in the finale? The chance still exists.”
In terms of the constructors’ title fight, Audi have a clear advantage coming into Hockenheim, leading Mercedes-AMG Motorsport by 166 points, but Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass is under no illusions that the title will be won easily.
“Obviously, we intend not to let anyone take the trophies away from us on the finish straight. At the same time, it’s clear that nothing has been decided yet and anything is always possible in the DTM – especially this season,” he explained, with two more qualifying sessions and races set to decide all three titles.
“This is another reason why the fans can look forward to a tremendous final weekend. Hockenheim is a track that stands for action-packed events. Overtaking is possible and the circuit makes high demands on the brakes and tires. I’m expecting a close, balanced field.”