DTM: Ekström the hunted at the Moscow Raceway
This weekend, DTM is going to hold the fifth edition of its Moscow weekend and the initial position at the circuit located not far from the city of art, the churches and the Kremlin is more thrilling than ever.
At the Moscow Raceway, old hand and championship leader Mattias Ekström (89 points) will be the hunted. At the challenging 3.931-kilometre circuit, the Audi driver who knows every trick in the book will have to fend off the attacks of his chaser Lucas Auer (Mercedes-AMG) who follows just two points behind. Furthermore, Maxime Martin (BMW / 78), Jamie Green (Audi / 75) and René Rast (Audi / 72) also are keen on stealing his championship lead. For Ekström, the 2004 and 2007 DTM-Champion, it’s the first championship lead since 2015. “The best still are close together and there isn’t an odd-on favourite,” says Ekström. “But from now on, the circle of title contenders will get smaller race by race. And I hope to be a part of it up to the season finale.” In three of the six races contested at Moscow to date the Swede celebrated three podiums.
At the Moscow Raceway, the drivers have virtually no time for a breather. The circuit represents an interesting mix of a long straight with fast and slow corners and permanent changes of direction – hard work for the DTM drivers in their cockpits. And the circuit offers more overtaking possibilities than just the one at the end of the one-kilometre home straight.
Audi currently holds the lead in all the three rankings and the Ingolstadters are determined to give their very best to defend this position. To date, the situation at the Moscow Race Way has been well-balanced, with each of the manufacturers, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-AMG, having won two of the races held at the Russian racetrack since 2013.
The Audi wins were secured – in 2013 and 2015 – by Mike Rockenfeller. And despite his metatarsus fracture suffered in his Norisring crash, ‘Rocky’ is confident and wants to contest the Moscow weekend with a specially prepared bandage and an adapted racing boots with stiffer sole. “For me, it was never an option to not race in Russia,” he reveals. “I hope the bandage helps me racing as fast as without the injury.” Rockenfeller arguably will brake – other than usually in a DTM vehicle – with his right foot. “It will be challenging for me do so perfectly and I hope that I will be able to race on the same level as usual. After all, I am accustomed to braking with the right foot from other race series.”
Another driver who delivered in particularly fine style in Russia is Bruno Spengler. “I massively am looking forward to Russia. The Moscow Raceway is a technical and challenging circuit that offers good overtaking possibilities. I really like the circuit and secured a lot of good results, there,” says the Canadian who made an end to a long dry spell by winning one of the Norisring rounds. Since 2014, Spengler secured four Moscow Raceway podiums. “Let’s hope that we will be able to confirm our Norisring competitiveness at Moscow.”
Meanwhile, Mercedes-AMG driver Lucas Auer, the toughest rival of championship leader Ekström, travels to Russia with boosted confidence. Early in the week it was confirmed that the two-time race winner in the current season was invited to test in the week following the race meeting in Moscow for the Force India F1 Team and demonstrate his skills – at the Hungaroring and within the framework of Formula One’s Young Driver Tests.
First of all, however, he will fully focus on racing at the Moscow Raceway. Auer: “The circuit is extremely challenging and it has got it all. The two qualifying sessions definitely will be the key factors. ,” he says. “If you make it to the top in these sessions your chance of securing a podium look bright.” The Austrian who made a stunning start into the season still is not ready to waste a thought on winning the championship. “I remain true to myself and focus on race by race.”
The ninth race of the season will be started on Saturday at 15:40hrs local time and on Sunday, the drivers start into the installation lap at 15:40hrs local time. DTM’s German TV partner ARD will cover both races live, on Saturday from 14:30hrs CEST (13:30hrs BST) and on Sunday from 13:30hrs CEST, (12:30 BST).