Rain man: Tomczyk on top after Barcelona qualifying thriller
Martin Tomczyk (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) will be starting from pole-position for tomorrow's eighth round of the DTM at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona (start at 14.00 h, ARD live from 13.45 h onwards). A fascinating three-heat shoot out qualifying session on a wet track saw the 24-year old German come out on top with a fastest lap time of 1.13.900 minutes at the 2.949 kilometres long circuit.
He outpaced Audi-team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen by 0.067 seconds while Tom Kristensen moved up into third place in the final minute of the session, completing the good team result for Audi. Best-placed Mercedes-Benz-driver is points leader Bernd Schneider in fourth position. With Kristensen and Schneider, the two main contenders in the battle for the title will be side-by-side on the second row of the starting grid.
With the fourth pole-position of his DTM career and his first of the season, Martin Tomczyk continues his upward trend that saw him already score two podium finishes at the Nürburgring and Zandvoort recently. "I didn't really expect to be on pole. Of course, this is fantastic", he beamed after qualifying.
Audi's lock-out of the front row of the starting grid was completed by Heinz-Harald Frentzen, whose second place was also his best qualifying result so far this year. Frank Stippler, who already topped the time sheets after free practice on Saturday morning, was best-placed driver with year-old machinery in seventh place with his Audi A4 DTM.
The main victim of the first heat was two times' season winner, Mercedes-Benz-driver Bruno Spengler. He waited long for his final attempt to set a fast lap time, but failed to make it through into the next session and will now be starting 19th for tomorrow's race. On the other hand, both Mathias Lauda (AMG-Mercedes C-Class) and Vanina Ickx (Audi A4 DTM) moved up with their two year old cars: local hero Lauda in eleventh place and Ickx with the 13th fastest time.
In the second heat, Lauda ended up tenth and Ickx was 14th, the best qualifying result so far this year for the two of them. Jamie Green, four times pole-sitter this season, also failed to move on after the second heat: he had to make do with 13th place.
Two prominent guests are attending this weekend's DTM event at the Circuit de Catalunya. Local hero Carlos Sainz, world rally champion in 1990 and 1992, is present and will be driving VIP guests around the circuit in the Audi DTM race taxi. Pedro de la Rosa, racing driver of the McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team, is also getting a first live impression of the DTM. He will be driving the Mercedes-Benz DTM race taxi.
Martin Tomczyk (1st place, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): "The fact that it worked out so well today had a lot to do with team work and tyre pressure. We already tested the different tyre pressures and obviously we have found the right one. There, you see what difference good team work can make! Now, we just have to bring it home tomorrow."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (2nd place, Audi Sport Team Abt): "Everything went fairly easy today. At the end, we tried to improve even more, but it didn't work out, I couldn't go any faster. One-two-three for Audi is okay."
Tom Kristensen (3rd place, Audi Sport Team Abt): "Congratulations to Martin and Heinz-Harald. We know that it would rain, but we didn't expect it to be that much. It was not easy to find the right time slot to go out and the right tyre pressure, but it worked well for us. A top three lock-out is fantastic for Audi!"
Bernd Schneider (4th place, Vodafone AMG-Mercedes): "I am quite happy with the result, although it could have been better. However, I am rather optimistic for tomorrow. After all, I also made it from seventh to second place at Zandvoort."
Mercedes-Benz motor sport director Norbert Haug: "For sure, we didn't do the best job here in qualifying and didn't get things 100 percent right. But it can happen like this in the rain. However, we have seen at Zandvoort that Bernd Schneider still can make it onto the podium when he is starting seventh. Here at Barcelona, he will be starting fourth tomorrow. Maybe the weather will be different tomorrow, maybe not. But that is what makes the DTM interesting and what the series should be like. Tom Kristensen is just ahead of Bernd Schneider and needs to score points to close up in the championship. I expect that tomorrow's race and the two following races will be really exciting. Mathias Lauda's result in his home race is considerably. Jamie Green in 13th place is certainly not what we had expected or could have hoped for."
Audi motor sport director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich: "I am very happy with this result. Especially when I think back to the race in Turkey last year. There, we just couldn't get things right in the rain. Yesterday, we had a long meeting in order to find out why the cars didn't work in the rain. Obviously, we have made the right decisions. That qualifying eventually turned out as it did, however, is mainly down to the drivers and when they keep on going like this, I am looking forward to more qualifyings in the rain."
Formula 1-driver Pedro de la Rosa: "It is impressive to see how close the cars are together in the DTM. I have a different experience from Formula 1. I have raced already against some of the drivers who are competing here and it speaks for the high sporting value of the DTM, that former Formula 1 drivers are now battling for pole here in the DTM. I have already seen a couple of DTM races on television, but this is the first time for me that I am actually visiting a race. I must say that the atmosphere is totally different from Formula 1. Here, it is friendlier, fans can get close to the cars and the drivers. They are just closer to the action."
Former world rally champion Carlos Sainz: "I would like to thank Audi for giving me the opportunity to drive a DTM car here at Barcelona. It allows me to find out how a touring car accelerates and how it is behaving under braking. These are real, exciting race cars and driving one has been great fun. It is the first time for me that I am attending a DTM weekend and I really hope for the series to become established here in Spain. It is an outstanding touring car series and maybe, we can have a Spanish driver racing here next year."