As DTM went to Brands Hatch in England, Mattias Ekström once again qualified eighth and finished fifth.
At the first two races of the year we were in a really tough fight to score good points. We didn’t expect Brands Hatch to be any different and it wasn’t. We had a hard time searching for pace; some times in the practice sessions were better, some were worse and when qualifying came around we didn’t hit the sweet spot. Eighth on the grid – again – was pretty disappointing, because I know how difficult it is to pass at Brands.
Luckily in the race I was able to make up some ground. I took two places on track – mostly just following Martin Tomczyk through, as he was quick – and the team did a good strategy with two decent pitstops which gained us another place. We finished fifth and picked up ten points.
It wasn’t what I was hoping for but given the situation those were 10 very good points. It leaves us third in the Championship; we’ve gone above Jamie Green and things aren’t too bad. It’s hard when you want to be winning and all you can do is scrap your way to fifth but sometimes in motorsport what you really need is patience.
At Brands we learned a lot. We weren’t ready to win but, despite finishing in the same place we did at the Lausitzring, I think we’ve made progress. The performance gap we had at Hockenheim and the Lausitzring has closed by maybe 50 per cent. If we continue making steps like this then we will soon be challenging for victories again.
Having a short season is a real buzz. You have to make sure you get the best out of a bad weekend and really take advantage when it comes to you. Last year we did the latter, and won consistently in the second half of the year but failed in the early months of the championship. I was in a much worse position this time last year and eventually finished second in the championship table. And that’s why I think we’re still in a title fight. We are third, albeit with a big gap to Gary Paffett. But there’s still 175 points up for grabs so it’s still in our own hands.
Next up for us is the Red Bull Ring. Last year I went to Austria expecting to have a very good time and instead had quite simply the worst race of my DTM career! I crashed in the pitlane during qualifying, started last and then had problems in the race and didn’t finish. It’s the only race in my career from which I’m confident in saying things can only get better – because I can’t imagine them being any worse than that!
I like the track and I had some good experiences there back in my early DTM days. It will be a different style of race because the straights are longer, the braking zones are harder and it generally provides a different test for the cars to what we experienced at Brands. Maybe guys like Gary and Bruno Spengler have a little advantage because they can drive relaxed, having good points in the bag, but in DTM things can change pretty quickly.
Before that I’m going up into the Austrian mountains for a short fitness camp. Mostly maintenance training but we’ll do some strength work as well. I’ll make sure I get a lot of sleep, eat well, get good hydration and spend plenty of time with my family. The work-life balance has been a little skewed recently and I feel the more I’m in equilibrium at home, the better I’ll be at work. The plan is to arrive at the Red Bull Ring fully recharged and ready to go.