The fifth round of the DTM Series gets underway this weekend as the teams venture to the Moscow Raceway.
Audi‘s Mattias Ekström has taken over the lead of the championship, despite having not yet claimed a race win this season.
After winning the 2016 FIA WorldRX Championship the Swede is keen to claim his third DTM title.
Of the six DTM races which have taken place there to date, Ekström has stood on the podium three times. In 2015 he had a spectacular crash with Timo Glock, his crew repaired the car overnight before rewarding their hard work with third place and the lead of the championship standings.
Ekström currently leads the championship by two points over Lucas Auer.
“The best are still close together and there are no clear favorites yet,” says the 2004 and 2007 DTM Champion. “From now on, the circle of candidates for the title will be getting smaller with each race and I’m hoping to be part of it up until the end.”
As well as Ekström being on top in the driver standings, Audi lead the way in the manufacturers’ and Audi Sport Team Rosberg top the team championship.
Auer started strongly to the championship but after difficult races at the Hungaroring and Norisring where he claimed three non-scoring finishes, the Austrian has dropped to second in the championship.
Following weeks of rumours it has been confirmed that Auer will take part in the Formula One test in Hungary at the wheel of a Sahara Force India Formula One Team machine.
“The Moscow Raceway is incredibly challenging. It has a little bit of everything. The two qualifyings will clearly be the key. Whoever comes out of those ahead already has the race half sewn up.
“It’s also very important, though, that we identify a setup in free practice that isn’t going to put the tyres under too much stress. As for the championship, I’m sticking to the line that I’m taking each race as it comes.”
In 2016 Mercedes claimed a 1-2-3-4 in Race 1 with Robert Wickens, Paul di Resta, Gary Paffett and Maximilian Götz.
Following his accident in the second of the two races at the Norisring, Paffett is fully fit to take part and has been given a new chassis to do so.
Race 1 polesitter and Race 2 winner of the Norisring Maxime Martin is third in the championship, eleven points off Ekström. This means all three manufacturers are represented in the top three positions.
BMW have fond memories of the Moscow Raceway with Martin celebrating his first-ever DTM victory there back in 2014, and Marco Wittmann claiming victory there in 2016 on the way to his second title.
“I have reached the podium three times in a row now, including the win in the Sunday race at the Norisring. Things are going really well for me just now. Moscow has always had special significance for me as I claimed my first DTM win there.
“That is why I’m really looking forward to the weekend and I hope that we can continue our form from Budapest and the Norisring. It won’t be easy.
“The Norisring is a special circuit, so it is difficult to get a real idea of the overall performance of the car or draw any conclusions from it. However, I am looking forward to Moscow and I will aim to compete for the top spot.”
It is still unknown whether Mike Rockenfeller will be able to compete this weekend so Audi have drafted in McLaren Young Driver Nyck de Vries if Rockenfeller is unable to race.