Ekstrom sets the early pace in Italy

Reigning DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom set the fastest time during practice on Friday for Audi, while behind him Mercedes seemed closer to the pace at Mugello

Ekstrom sets the early pace in Italy

Ekstrom's best lap was set during the first 90-minute session of the day, while the majority of drivers were much closer to the pace in the second session.

While the lead Mercedes during the first session, Jamie Green, was seven tenths of a second adrift of Ekstrom, some encouraging times from Paul di Resta and Bernd Schneider later in the day suggested that Audi might not have things their own way this weekend as they have in the first two rounds of the season.

Di Resta topped the second session, but his best effort was just shy of Ekstrom's earlier time. However, the Scot remained cautious about making any predictions for the weekend.

"Things went well today, we had a programme to get through and we did," he told autosport.com. "But we don't know what everyone else is up to, so we will just have to wait and see."

The Mercedes driver's day ended with a close call, as he exited the pitlane just as the pit exit light changed to red. His team told him to stop even though he was past the line, and he then had to sit in the hot car waiting for marshals to push him back.

Championship leader Timo Scheider was close to the front in both sessions, while Markus Winkelhock was the fastest driver in a one-year-old car.

Audi's still filled most of the top places during both sessions, but their dominance did not reach the levels seen at Hockenheim and Oschersleben.

Series newcomer Ralf Schumacher was 16th in both sessions, and the German driver left the circuit soon after practice as he was feeling unwell.

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