Paul di Resta was the class of the field in DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) qualifying at Brands Hatch today, taking the pole position for Mercedes-Benz from Audi's Timo Scheider and Tom Kristensen.
"Claiming pole position today is something special," di Resta said. "So far, the year has been rather disappointing for me. However, that is the way things are in motorsport, there are ups and downs."
After a second-place finish in last year's DTM title fight this year has indeed been much more challenging for the young Scot, who has only a pair of fourth places to show for his efforts and languishes in sixth place in the standings. However, after scoring the fastest times in three of the four qualifying segments and a second in the penultimate one, he now has a prime opportunity to fight for a win -- or at least a podium position in tomorrow's race.
"My C-Class was excellent in qualifying as well as in race trim and we now have the optimum basis for the race," the 23-year-old said. "I thank my team for a perfect job - I will fight to reward them with possibly the same position tomorrow."
Scheider lost out to di Resta by eight hundredths of a second, in the first race since Norisring that saw the Mercedes and Audi cars balanced in terms of minimum weight, but the defending DTM champion felt good about taking the start well in front of his key title challengers, teammate Mattias Ekstrom and Mercedes pilot Gary Paffett.
"With a view toward Mattias and Gary -- my closest rivals at the moment -- who are only starting from positions six and seven, I'm very happy with second place on the grid," the 10-year DTM veteran said. "Particularly here at Brands Hatch the front row is very important because overtaking is difficult and strategy will play a major role."
With both Ekstrom and Paffett failing to make the cut for the final four-car qualifying shootout, Audi's Le Mans ace Kristensen and Mercedes' Bruno Spengler took those spots without hesitation, the latter setting the fastest time in the penultimate segment. However, neither could match their third-segment pace when the chips were down for the pole position, Kristensen losing to Scheider by mere six thousandths of a second and Spengler on tenth of a second further back.
"My A4 was fast all day and despite slight understeer on the crucial lap, it was enough to finish third in the end," Kristensen reflected. "To be honest, this isn't exactly the place you like to start from at Brands Hatch: It's the position in a small dip directly alongside the wall. So, I'll give my very best to get out of there as quickly as possible."
With the tight "Indy" circuit at Brands Hatch, Scheider is in a strong position to grow his points lead tomorrow -- currently one point over Ekstrom and five over Paffett if he can drive a clean race and avoid problems. Paffett and Ekstrom may have to resort to creative pit strategies if they want to move closer to Scheider, and those strategies carry risks as well as rewards.