Schneider and Alesi on front row for Donington DTM; all-Audi second row Bernd Schneider starts on pole for the fourth time this season after edging out his AMG-Mercedes team-mate Jean Alesi in qualifying for round six of the DTM at the UK's...
Schneider and Alesi on front row for Donington DTM; all-Audi second row
Bernd Schneider starts on pole for the fourth time this season after edging out his AMG-Mercedes team-mate Jean Alesi in qualifying for round six of the DTM at the UK's Donington Park circuit. Schneider's lap of 1m28.206s topped the Super Pole time sheet by 0.190s over the Frenchman, despite a lock-up into the final corner, Goddards. Audi fills out row two, with Mattias Ekstrom posting a 1m28.418s lap to beat reigning DTM champion by just 0.110s. The marque had finished the 25-minute pre-Super Pole session in first and second place, giving them a lot of confidence for the race itself. Opel's Peter Dumbreck was disappointed to qualify seventh with a time of 1m28.751s in his OPC Team Phoenix car, behind the Mercedes CLKs of Marcel Fassler and Christijan Albers, but with the top seven covered by just 0.545s, the result of tomorrow's 36-lap race around the 4.023 km Leicestershire circuit should be extremely hard to predict. The race starts at noon (13.00 CET) and will be broadcast live on ZDF, starting with pre-race build-up at 12.45 CET.
Four Mercedes in top six - but Haug warns race will be tough
The front row cars of Schneider and Alesi are joined by their fellow works CLKs of Marcel Fassler and points-leader Christijan Albers in fifth and sixth, but Mercedes sports boss Norbert Haug doesn't believe that guarantees success in Sunday's race. "It was a good lap from Bernd this afternoon and Jean did a good job too, but Ekstrom's time this morning was an excellent achievement," said Haug. "I certainly can't predict whether a Mercedes will win tomorrow. Ekstrom will be strong tomorrow; there are seven guys within six tenths of a second and the championship is still very close indeed, with the top five drivers only covered by 14 points." Schneider's fourth pole of the season didn't come without its dramas, with a lurid lock-up into the final corner. "The lap was not perfect, because I made a mistake in the final sector," said Schneider, "but I've got to be happy with the result and I must thank the team who made a lot of progress with the car from this morning's practice session. It's always good to be on pole, but I know that Mattias Ekstrom and the Audis are not going to make it easy for us tomorrow." Alesi won at Donington Park last year, in only his third DTM race start and is relishing the challenge of making it two British victories in a row. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race," said Alesi. "Running in the wet on Friday gave us a good set-up if it rains and now we've made a small change to our dry-weather set-up which I'm very happy with too."
Audi keeps Mercedes in its sights
Hard work from the Abt-Audi squad is beginning to pay off, with Ekstrom and Aiello sharing the second row and looking forward to taking on the Mercedes in Sunday's race. Ekstrom was fastest of all in the third sector and believes he can take the fight to Schneider and Alesi. "The car has felt good all day today," said Ekstrom. "On my Super Pole lap I didn't feel so confident through the first sector, and I don't know why. But it was very good in the final sector and we are looking for a good result tomorrow." The team tested at Vallelunga in Italy last week and also made significant set-up improvements through an intensive hour of free practice on Saturday morning. Team principal Hans-Jurgen Abt believes the hard work can be rewarded on Sunday. "I think everybody can see that we've improved our cars," said Abt, "so with a little bit of luck tomorrow I think we can make a very good job of chasing those two cars ahead of us." With Aiello alongside him, Ekstrom is hoping for more of the team work that allowed them to scythe through the field and onto the podium at Adria earlier in the season. "In Italy (Adria) we showed we can work very well together," said the Swede, "so if we get the opportunity, we'll show that again tomorrow."
Opel looks for a little luck on Sunday
Peter Dumbreck and his OPC Team Phoenix squad had hoped for a better Super Pole result than seventh, but still believe that anything is possible in Sunday's race. The Scot lost time in the final sector of the track and is relying on race craft, local knowledge and a little luck to give him the result his form over two days of testing suggests he deserves. "I had hoped to break into the top five, and a perfect lap would have made that possible," said Dumbreck. "But we just don't have the speed around the final sector. But anything can happen at this track, as we saw in the race last year. Overall, I'm still quite happy - I'm the top Opel and I'll be fighting for a podium position."
"We expected more," said Opel's motorsport boss Volker Strycek. "We were quick in the first two sectors, not so good in the third and perhaps we need a little better traction. But with good strategy and good luck, maybe we can get something out of tomorrow's race."
DTM time schedule (local time)
Sunday, July 27:
9.00 till 9.30 h warm up
12.00 h start race (36 laps 144.828 km)