Ekström ahead of Dumbreck in qualifying thriller, over 50,000 tickets sold
The most exciting DTM-final ever becomes an absolute thriller because of the starting grid. With the Abt-Audi TT-R, Mattias Ekström claimed pole-position ahead of Peter Dumbreck with the Opel Astra V8 Coupé and Jean Alesi with the AMG-Mercedes CLK. All three already announced their ambitions of winning before the final. The two candidates for the championship title, points leader Bernd Schneider and Christijan Albers, only qualified in fifth (Schneider) and ninth place.
Both the 25 minutes' timed practice for all drivers as well as the "Super-Pole", the single-lap qualifying for the ten fastest drivers, was taking place in difficult circumstances. After rain in the morning, the track became visibly dryer, but there was a slippery film on the surface. On Saturday already, the new south grand stand and the Mercedes-grand stand were fully packed. Yesterday included, over 50,000 tickets have now been sold for the final, an absolute record.
Mattias Ekström: "From first on the grid, the road to the finish is the shortest"
This time round, he won't have to start catching up like most recently at Zandvoort. Because this time, 25-year old Swede Mattias Ekström clinched pole-position and explained with a simple mathematical exercise, why he is bound to win: "From first place on the grid, the road to the finish is the shortest." The key to success was an error-free lap. "On the first two sectors, maybe I was a little bit too slow, but in the Motodrom, I did everything right. That part is also the one that suits my Audi most."
Audi-junior Martin Tomczyk also got himself a good position in fourth place. "Today, Mattias wasn't just the best racing driver, but also the best rally driver," Abt's team principal Hans-Jürgen Abt said, with a little bit of irony concerning the lay-out of the track, that makes it necessary to integrate the run-off-areas into the ideal line as well. Champion Laurent Aiello had bad luck in timed practice: he was just on a flying lap as the session was stopped following an accident.
Peter Dumbreck: "I am very satisfied with second place on the grid"
Scot Peter Dumbreck was also satisfied with second place on the grid. "On the first two sectors, I got myself a nice advantage. But at the Sachs-hairpin, it was very slippery. Then, the braking on the rear-wheels of my Astra was a bit too much, and the car started sliding. But I am still totally happy being able to start from second place." When asked whether he would prefer rain or a dry track, Opel's best-placed driver said: "For the spectators, I hope for sunshine, but for me, I hope for rain, because I like a wet track and I would surely like to win..."
Opel's motorsport director was also happy with four Astras in the top ten: Alain Menu was sixth, Timo Scheider seventh and Manuel Reuter tenth. "A great performance by Peter", Volker Strycek praised. "And too bad, that Manuel Reuter couldn't take part in the Super-Pole following his accident. But we have proven today that our strong performance at Zandvoort wasn't a one-off thing."
Title candidate Schneider: "I have made two mistakes in the Motodrom"
"That was racing at its best," Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug said, who was especially happy with third place of former Formula 1-driver Jean Alesi, who is known for his quick starts. "Our new format with timed practice for all drivers and the subsequent Super-Pole is unique and worth to be copied." Points leader Bernd Schneider seemed to be just a little disappointed: "I was running quite well, but then I made some slight mistakes in the Motodrom and now, I am only fifth."
Dutch youngster Christijan Albers took it quite easy that he was only ninth on the grid after making mistakes on his Super-Pole lap. "I am only 24 years old and therefore, I don't feel any pressure to become champion now already," the youngster said in a cool manner. "My tyres just didn't get to grip, so I couldn't get a good lap together. But tomorrow is another day and another game."