Mattias Ekström has had no DTM races since the stadium event in Munich, but the business of racing has a habit of filling in the gaps.
Or rather, bonjour, as I’ve been at Magny Cours testing since the last blog.
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for me. I even went to the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim to watch Friday practice. The motor sports community is quite close knit but I think this is the first time I’ve been to a grand prix since 2004. It’s a long time ago anyway, but I had a really nice time at the circuit. There’s something very relaxing about being in the middle of all that frantic activity and remembering that it’s nothing to do with you and there’s no pressure on you o do anything other than kick back and watch with your friends.
Of course there’s always something to learn. Standing in the garage during those sessions was interesting, but for me, the odd thing about the Hockenheim paddock was the absence of fans. When DTM is there, it’s a lot more inclusive, although F1 would be swamped if they opened the gates.
"Sometimes it’s the job of the driver to take a good long look at himself and make little changes"
Having a month without racing provides an opportunity to reflect. Obviously it wasn’t a great first half of the season but we are definitely making progress and competing at a high level. At the first race of the year, we had pole position, and that answers any questions there might be about whether or not the A5 DTM is quick enough. Clearly it is, but to turn that into a car that's a consistent frontrunner every week requires a lot more development. We still need to improve, but I feel we’re making the package more competitive all the time.
I’m sure we’ll be stronger in the second half of the year but nothing comes easy. In my experience, it always comes down to the little things. Sometimes it’s the job of the driver to take a good long look at himself and make little changes. Sometimes it’s a set-up change, or a slight reorganisation of the team. Whatever it is, what makes real winners is being able to spot where the tinkering needs to be done and getting those details ironed out as soon as possible.
I don’t know what else to say, other than we’re going to do everything we can in the second half of the year and the season is far from over.
We’re at the Nürburgring next. The circuit’s been good to me: last year I won from pole, which is a very pleasant memory to have. Alhough, actually, I don’t like talking about favourite tracks. Like any driver, I have a style that suits some circuits more than others. But if you’re going to be successful, then you need to have a very high base standard on those circuits you don’t like. Probably the key to a long and successful career is being able to drive well anywhere on any given day. You’ve got to want to go to those circuits – it’s useless if you’re going to a circuit you don’t like and expect to do badly.
Not that I’ve ever had anything but love for the Nürburgring. If you’ve read this blog before you’ll know how much I like being up in the Eifel. This year, the aim won’t be any different: to get the maximum speed out of the car in practice, have a good qualifying session, get to the front and then fight for my life in the race. Simple.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before then I’ve got a week off and I’m going to take a break. My plan is to have no plan – just see where the wind takes me. It feels very liberating not having a schedule to follow.