Mercedes Plays Rough in DTM, Audi Whines
The fight for rank got out of hand at the DTM race in Barcelona this past weekend, or at least Audi thinks so. Following two accidents sending Audi A4 race cars off the course, Audi Motorsport Director Wolfgang Ulrich made the decision to withdraw the seven remaining A4s from competition in protest. It was his belief that the Mercedes-Benz drivers were not only driving hard, they were purposely taking Audis out of the competition. Click through for the full story and a few quotes from those involved.
AUDI PRESS RELEASE
-Excessively rough driving at the DTM race at Barcelona
-Audi withdraws all vehicles as a consequence
-Audi driver Mattias Ekstrom continues to lead the table
The title decision in the 2007 DTM will only be made in the finale at Hockenheim on 14 October. 42,000 spectators at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona (Spain) witnessed an excessively rough race in which one Audi driver after the other was bumped off the track by Mercedes drivers - among them all four drivers of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline including the two candidates for the title, Mattias Ekstroem (Sweden) and Martin Tomczyk (Germany). When the situation threatened to escalate, Audi decided to withdraw all seven Audi A4 DTM cars that were still in the race.
From the start, the quickest in qualifying, Martin Tomczyk, had taken the lead before being bumped off the track on lap seven by the two-time Formula World Champion Mika Hakkinen. After the incident, Tomczyk was at first able to continue the race in eleventh place but later had to retire because the radiator of his Audi A4 DTM was damaged in the collision.
Leader of the standings Mattias Ekstroem had advanced from tenth to sixth place after the start and was very quick after an early first tyre change. While overtaking Daniel la Rosa, who had not pitted yet, he was hit hard by the Mercedes driver. This meant the end of the race for the Swede as well.
Previously, on the starting lap, Tom Kristensen had been turned around by Mercedes driver Gary Paffett. When Timo Scheider and Mike Rockenfeller, who was running in third position, also were pushed off the track by Mercedes drivers, Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich - after consultation with the Chairman of the Board of AUDI AG, Rupert Stadler - decided to withdraw all seven Audi cars remaining in the race to send a clear message in favour of fair racing.
"What happened on the race track today was simply unacceptable," stated Rupert Stadler, who witnessed the race live at the team garage of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline. "We're proceeding from the assumption that emotions will cool down again before the Hockenheim race and that spectators will see a finale with fair sport. It's also clear that we continue to be committed to the DTM. But a few things will probably have to change."
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport)
"We wanted to see a tough, but fair touring car race today. But we had to get the impression that the Mercedes drivers used every opportunity to eliminate our cars. This is not the style in which we want to conduct motorsport. We want to see tough and fair duels but nothing of the kind we had today. That's why we took the decision to withdraw all of our vehicles. That was not an easy decision, and it cost us points, and maybe even the title. But we wanted to send a clear message for fair motorsport."
DTM-ISSUED PRESS RELEASE:
Barcelona. After a hotly contested ninth season round in Barcelona, the decision in the battle for the title in the DTM has been postponed to the final race of the year at Hockenheim. After much-discussed and disputable position fights, Audi decide to withdraw all its cars from the race after 50 of 58 laps. After that, victory went to Jamie Green with the AMG Mercedes C-Class from his fellow Mercedes-Benz drivers Bruno Spengler and Paul di Resta. For Green, it was the first DTM victory of his career.
The reason for the decision by Audi's motorsport director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich were many duels that were too harsh from Audi's point of view. Among others, Mika Hakkinen and the runner-up in the points' standings, Audi driver Martin Tomczyk, collided on lap seven. On lap 13, Mercedes-Benz driver Daniel la Rosa collided with the championship leader, Mattias Ekstroem with his Audi A4 DTM. All four drivers had to retire from the race.
In front of 42,000 spectators during the race weekend, emotions were running high in the pit lane as well. The motorsport directors of both manufacturers, Norbert Haug (Mercedes-Benz) and Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Audi) shared the view that the emotions will cool down and expressed themselves in an optimistic way for the season final at the Hockenheimring in three weeks' time to bring a sporty and fair decision in the drivers' standings of the 2007 DTM.
The tenth and final DTM round of the year will be taking place at the Hockenheimring Baden-Wuerttemberg, October 14th.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Audi Motorsport Director)
"Surely, the decision to withdraw all the cars from the race was far from easy for me. I am aware that this has cost us points as well that might be important in the end. We have come to Barcelona to have a fair race. But the things that happened here on the track were initially much and in the end, with the situation against Mike Rockenfeller, too much. That was definitely not what we had wanted to see here. Motorsport must be fair competition and that wasn't the case in this race. Of course, cars touch on the track in a hard and fair race. But when the contact is the reason that cars retire, it is a form of behaviour that we do not want to see in motorsport. The decision to withdraw the cars from the race was meant to show that we don't want that."
Norbert Haug (Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director)
"Now, we have to take a close look at the situation and only after that, one can make a thorough judgement. You always have to look at the overall picture first and then draw a conclusion. At the end of the main straight, Mika Hakkinen was much quicker than Martin Tomczyk. Maybe, the overtaking manoeuvre was a little bit optimistic, but he didn't do it on purpose. Mattias Ekstroem was driving very harshly in the situation with Daniel la Rosa. According to me, there was no reason to withdraw the cars from the race. I want to emphasise at this occasion that for us, there was no team order and that the actions at the track were by no means a revenge for Zandvoort. We would never do something like that. Now, emotions will cool down and we will see an exciting season final at Hockenheim."
Bruno Spengler (2nd place, DaimlerChrysler Bank AMG Mercedes)
"The eight points that I managed to score today are well deserved and I am happy for being only two points down on Mattias Ekstroem in the championship. The other drivers weren't making life particularly easy for me either, but these were all position fights and therefore were all right for me. I am just happy that I made it to the finish with my car in one piece. In the final at Hockenheim, I will be giving everything, as in every race. I am looking forward to an exciting showdown with three title candidates."