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Mercedes-Benz 1-2 in 2012 DTM season opener, Audi 3rd, BMW 6th

European motorsport fans have DTM fever as 142,000 spectators showed up during the weekend for the start of the new era of the DTM at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg, Germany. On the Sunday of the race alone, 71,000 spectators enjoyed the three-way battle between the premium manufacturers Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz and race winner Gary Paffett.

The 31-year old Mercedes-Benz driver survived an incident after the start and several fender to fender duels during the course of the race to cross the finish line ahead of his fellow Mercedes-Benz driver and Jamie Green. Paffett said about his 18th race win in the DTM: “Last year was really bad for me. Nevertheless, I didn’t lose my self-confidence. Great, the way it has started now. At the start, I managed to stay out of traffic and the duel with Jamie was really fair.”

It was Paffett’s 18th Victory in the DTM and his fourth at Hockenheim. It was the British driver’s 26th podium in the 82nd DTM race of his career and his seventh in a DTM race at Hockenheim. With 18 wins and a winning rate of 22%, Paffett has achieved the greatest number of victories among those drivers currently contesting the DTM. Paffett and Green secured the 100th one-two victory for Mercedes-Benz in the DTM since 1988.

It was the sixth consecutive Mercedes victory at their home race in Hockenheim (opener and finale), and their third win in a row at a DTM season opener (Paffett 2010 and 2012, and Bruno Spengler, 2011). Overall since 1988, Mercedes-Benz has won 32 of 65 DTM races at the Hockenheimring. During the same period, Mercedes-Benz drivers were victorious 166 times in 343 DTM races.

Third place at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg went to Swede Mattias Ekström with the Audi A5 DTM. Mattias Ekström started from the pole position in his Red Bull Audi A5 DTM at the Hockenheimring and immediately took the lead, which he kept until lap five before making a braking mistake in turn two, dropping behind Jamie Green and shortly afterward behind Gary Paffett too. From then on the Swede from Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline concentrated on safeguarding third place which, as in Formula 1, is rewarded with 15 points this year.

"When you start from the pole position third place is certainly not your dream result," said Mattias Ekström. "But our rival was simply better today; we’ve got to accept that. But not to worry: we’ll come back! It was very warm today and we didn’t have the optimum set-up for these conditions."

As for the BMW comeback, starting the race from third place on the grid, Dirk Werner was hit by Mercedes driver Ralf Schumacher very early in the race, and dropped to the back of the field. Bruno Spengler, who was directly behind Schumacher at the time, could do nothing to avoid colliding with the former Formula One driver, and subsequently had to retire from the race.

In all the turmoil, reigning DTM champion Martin Tomczyk was forced off the track and suffered damage to his BMW M Performance Parts M3 DTM. As a result, Tomczyk's first race of the new DTM era also came to a premature end just a few laps into the action. Joey Hand was hit by another competitor and spun in the hairpin, losing time and dropping positions. He eventually crossed the line in 13th. Augusto Farfus finished 15th, while Werner brought his car home in 17th.

The other drivers to score points were Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard from Scotland, both with a DTM Mercedes AMG C-Coupé, as well as Spaniard Miguel Molina and Portuguese Filipe Albuquerque both in Audis.

BMW started the day with plenty of optimism because of the good qualifying results on Saturday. Unfortunately things did not go as well on Sunday. Werner, who had started third, initially lost three places at the start of the race, spun after a collision with Ralf Schumacher and dropped back to the end of the field. Werner finished the race in 17th place. Defending champion Martin Tomczyk and BMW’s new signing Bruno Spengler retired after various collisions on the first four laps.

In the DTM, a new points’ scheme has come into force for this season, equal to that of Formula 1. Accordingly, Paffett is leading the drivers’ standings after the opening round with 25 points, followed by Green (18 points) and Ekström (16 points). The second DTM weekend of the year already takes place in one week’s time at the Lausitzring near Dresden from May 4th till 6th.

“A great result. Our team has done the best job." Head of motorsport Mercedes-Benz Norbert Haug, "The result in qualifying wasn’t fantastic, but in the race, we were able to show a great performance. Victory is the best reward one can get. The duels by Jamie Green and Gary Paffett were motor racing at its best. It was a very good race.”

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