• Mattias Ekström takes top spot on the grid at DTM opening round
• Three Audi A5 DTM cars in the top five
• All three Audi factory teams on the three front rows
A brilliant and impressive debut for the new Audi A5 DTM: Exactly 274 days after the roll-out of the new DTM vehicle based on the A5 Coupé Mattias Ekström (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) took the pole position at the season opener at Hockenheim in front of Jamie Green (Mercedes-Benz) and Dirk Werner (BMW). Title defender Audi is thus starting into the new DTM era from the top spot on the grid.
Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz presented themselves on an equal footing in the first qualifying event of the new DTM right from the first minute on. Accordingly, the three premium manufacturers delivered a thrilling battle for the top positions on the grid which FIA President Jean Todt watched on location as well. In the crucial qualifying segment (Q4) Mattias Ekström prevailed. As temperatures kept rising and grip level was degrading, he clinched the pole position on used tires with a lead of more than two tenths of a second - marking the 19th pole in total in his DTM career and the 65th for Audi.
"I couldn’t have wished for a better start into the new DTM," jubilated the Swede who, after 2005 and 2009, achieved the best position on the grid at the DTM opener at Hockenheim for the third time. "The first pole position for the A5 DTM on its debut - that’s simply superb! Audi Sport has built a fantastic car. We worked hard and did our homework - that paid off today. This pole belongs to everyone in Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline. The warmer it became the less grip the track had. That was incredible fun for me. The fact that it was so warm today suited me well."
A driver of each of the other two Audi factory teams - the Italian Edoardo Mortara (Audi Sport Team Rosberg) and the German Mike Rockenfeller (Audi Sport Team Phoenix) - managed the leap into the top five as well. In Q4, Edoardo Mortara drove the third-best time but it was retroactively canceled because the Italian had crossed a blocked area in turn 1. Mike Rockenfeller in fifth place merely missed Q4 by 69 thousandths of a second.
The two-time DTM Champion Timo Scheider (Germany) is starting into the race on Sunday (broadcast live from 13:40 on "Das Erste") from position eight. The only 21-year-old Frenchman Adrien Tambay managed an impressive debut by clinching grid position twelve. Filipe Albuquerque, Miguel Molina and Rahel Frey are starting from positions 14, 17 and 22.
"This was an incredibly exciting first qualifying event in the new DTM era," said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "All three manufacturers are on an equal footing right from the beginning, only details are decisive. This is exactly what the fans want. Naturally, it’s great and a reward for the hard labor of the past few months that we clinched the first pole position in the new DTM era with the new Audi A5 DTM and that three of our cars are in the top five. The whole squad performed an almost super-human feat in order to put eight new cars on the grid here. Thank you very much for that! Now we’re all very eager to see the first race in front of such a fantastic crowd!"
Yet before the eagerly awaited race on Sunday, Audi is offering a special treat. On Saturday night, cult sports presenter Waldemar Hartmann together with comedian Matze Knop will provide commentaries on the qualifying action at "Waldi’s DTM Club" at the Audi Team & Media Hospitality at Hockenheim.
Mattias Ekström (Red Bull Audi A5 DTM), grid position 1
"A fantastic qualifying session. Being on pole in the new DTM was the best that could happen to us. We hadn’t been expecting summer weather at the season opener. It was warm today and that suited us well. We worked hard and did our homework - that paid off today. The season is just beginning. But it’s great to start this way."
Edoardo Mortara (Playboy Audi A5 DTM), grid position 4
"Position four is a very good starting base for me. I could have even managed the leap into the top two but I made a small mistake in turn one that cost me some time. But I’m pleased nonetheless. Starting into the first race of the year from the second row is a good sign for the season, which is still very long."
Mike Rockenfeller (Schaeffler Audi A5 DTM), grid position 5
"Fifth place isn’t a bad result. Obviously, you want more. But it wasn’t quite enough. I didn’t have the perfect lap. A big ‘thank you’ goes to my team. It’s important to score as many points as possible in the first race. Let’s see what’ll be possible with a good strategy and a good pace in the race."
Timo Scheider (AUTO TEST Audi A5 DTM), grid position 8
"Now we know how performance is split among the three manufacturers. We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. I’m not happy with position eight because we didn’t get a perfect handle on our car and my last lap wasn’t perfect either. On Sunday we’ll have to drive a hard race."
Adrien Tambay (Audi ultra A5 DTM), grid position 12
"It could have been better but it could have been worse just the same. I’d been wishing to make it into Q3 but the time differences were extremely small. I outperformed a few other rookies as well as a few experienced DTM racers. Twelfth place really isn’t a bad position for my first DTM race. My main goal for the race is to finish."
Filipe Albuquerque (TV Movie Audi A5 DTM), grid position 14
"Qualifying was a bit frustrating. I was not good and not quick enough. After the result in free practice I’m disappointed not to have made it into Q3. I’ve got to analyze this with my engineers now in order to better understand the tires."
Miguel Molina (Red Bull Audi A5 DTM), grid position 17
"I didn’t have a good qualifying session. I didn’t manage a good lap. In this championship the times are extremely close together. Now we’re preparing for the race. I don’t have a good starting base but I’ll be fighting."
Rahel Frey (E-POSTBRIEF Audi A5 DTM), grid position 22
"We had high aims for the first qualifying event. The winter tests were positive. But since Friday I’ve been struggling. I’ve still got some problems adjusting to the car and haven’t found the right set-up yet. Now I’m on grid position 22 but I’ll be giving everything in the race."
Hans-Jürgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): "We were just dying for the season opener to come and tried to perfectly develop ourselves. But that the pole position immediately worked out was simply great. ‘Well done’ to the whole team!"
Ernst Moser (Team Director Audi Sport Team Phoenix):
"That was a tremendous season opener for the DTM and obviously for Audi. I congratulate the whole Audi Sport squad and all three teams that are making a very balanced showing. With ‘Rocky’ everything was possible today, including pole. Unfortunately, he didn’t handle the middle sector in Q3 in the best way. When the field is as close as it is in the DTM you’ve got to get everything one hundred percent right. Miguel (Molina) made a mistake on his second outing in Q1 and wasn’t able to improve anymore as a result. We’ll try and put him into the top ten in tomorrow’s race with a good strategy."
Arno Zensen (Team Director Audi Sport Team Rosberg):
"Congratulations to Dr. Ullrich, Audi Sport and Mattias Ekström. The pole position after these weeks of preparation was sensational and well deserved. I look at our performance with mixed emotions. Both drivers were quick here. Edo Mortara was brilliant in qualifying; he finished in the top four but then almost lost the car in Q4. With Filipe (Albuquerque) qualifying was a disappointment; we need to analyze what went wrong in his case."