Despite securing pole position in yesterday’s qualifying, Audi driver Mattais Ekström lost the lead to arch-rivals Mercedes and never recovered it, finishing in 3rd place, with Andy Priaulx chasing down Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller to finish in 6th, as the best-placed BMW driver.

It was Paffett’s 18th DTM win and one of his most dominant. Despite starting in 6th, the 31-year old McLaren F1 test-driver had gained 3 places by the second lap.

Mercedes-driver Jamie Green passes Ekström on lap 5, followed shortly after by Paffett, who shadowed Green for the next 9 laps before taking the lead on lap 15. Ekström lost these two positions after locking up under braking and was never able to recover. “Of course, it is disappointing. Today, we simply weren’t quick enough and I have made a mistake. The result hurts a little bit, but surely, we will get chances to win”, said Ekström.

By this point, the race seems to be a two-horse battle between last year’s champions, Audi and their rival Mercedes, with only Priaulx and Farfus in the top-10.

Farfus’s race turned from good to bad on lap 22 when he came into the pits but missed his box. He came in again a lap later, but exceeded the pit lane speed limit, earning him a drive through penalty which he took on lap 25.

British driver Andy Priaulx finished up as the best-placed BMW driver in sixth position. “If somebody would have offered me sixth place before the weekend, I would gladly have accepted it. It was great fun, we had a fantastic crowd and we have seen that BMW is on the right way”, said 38-year old Priaulx.

Meanwhile David Coulthard was progressing through the field, from his start position of 18th, finishing up in 7th, just behind fellow Mercedes driver Ralph Schumacher.

Fellow-Scott, Susie Wolff, who started in 21st position, came through to finish a creditable 12th, just ahead of American-driver Joey Hand, who was BMW’s second highest finisher in 13th.

Of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Team drivers (mentored by F1 champion Michael Schumacher), Christian Vietoris finished highest in 4th just under 6 seconds behind Ekström. Canadian Robert Wickens ended the day in 14th, whilst the Persson Motorsport driver Roberto Merhi was the final runner in 18th.

Retirements included Timo Scheider (spin on lap 1 followed by collision with Mehri), Martin Tomczyk (retired on lap 4 after being forced off the track), Adrien Tambay (collision on lap 3 with Spengler) and Bruno Spengler (collision on lap 3 with Tambay).

Paffett’s Mercedes team mate Jamie Green, set the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:34.901, further underlining the dominance of the Stuttgart car maker.

Paffet said after the race, “What a fantastic start to the new DTM era. Many thanks to the team for their hard work – my THOMAS SABO Mercedes AMG C-Coupé was tuned perfectly. After a difficult season in 2011, I am pleased to have found the way back to the podium top spot.”

71,000 spectators attended today’s race, whilst 142,000 spectators came through the gates during the race weekend. Unlike the (BTCC) touring car racing here in the UK, the inaugural DTM race from Hockenheim was run in unseasonably dry conditions.

A new points scoring format came into force this weekend, bringing DTM closer to the system used in Formula 1. Paffett leads the drivers’ standings with 25 points, followed by Green (18 points) and Ekström (16 points).

BMW Motorsport Director, Jens Marquardt, said after the race, “On the whole, I am very happy with our DTM comeback. Nobody really knew what the balance of power would be at the start of the new DTM era. The unexpectedly strong performance in qualifying on Sunday, and the good sixth place achieved by an in-form Andy in Sunday’s race are just reward for the hard work put in by our entire team.”

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport, reflected on a disappointing race result, “On the whole, it was a fabulous start for the new DTM in front of a great crowd. All three manufacturers put all their cars on the grid under extreme time pressure. The cars functioned well and were very close together in terms of performance. Next week, in Lausitzring, we need to show that a perfect performance in qualifying can be converted to a win in the race.”

The next race is in a little over 6 days time, at the Lausitzring (May 4th to 6th), so we’ll soon see if Mercedes’ early lead in the championship is just a fluke and if BMW can inflict further damage whilst Audi struggles for pace.

DTM Race 1: Hockenheim. 27th – 29th April 2012.

Race Results.
Position Driver Car Time
1 Gary Paffett AMG Mercedes C-Coupé 1:04:37.615
2 Jamie Green AMG Mercedes C-Coupé 1:04:42.324
3 Mattias Ekström Audi A5 DTM 1:04:57.049
4 Christian Vietoris AMG Mercedes C-Coupé 1:05:03.389
5 Mike Rockenfeller Audi A5 DTM 1:05:05.449
6 Andy Priaulx BMW M3 DTM 1:05:06.050
7 Ralf Schumacher AMG Mercedes C-Coupé 1:05:17.563
8 David Coulthard AMG Mercedes C-Coupé 1:05:20.921
9 Miguel Molina Audi A5 DTM 1:05:23.694
10 Filipe Albuquerque Audi A5 DTM 1:05:24.229
11 Edoardo Mortara Audi A5 DTM 1:05:24.868
12 Susie Wolff AMG Mercedes C-Coupé 1:05:29.586
13 Joey Hand BMW M3 DTM 1:05:46.243
14 Robert Wickens AMG Mercedes C-Coupé 1:05:46.642
15 Augusto Farfus BMW M3 DTM 1:05:47.171
16 Rahel Frey Audi A5 DTM 1:05:53.738
17 Dirk Werner BMW M3 DTM 1:05:02.382
18 Roberto Merhi AMG Mercedes C-Coupé 1:02:40.011
DNF Timo Scheider Audi A5 DTM
DNF Martin Tomczyk BMW M3 DTM
DNF Adrien Tambay Audi A5 DTM
DNF Bruno Spengler BMW M3 DTM