DTM

Hockenheimring: Qualifying report

Dramatic qualifying: Jean Alesi takes the lead The applause of some 35,000 visitors on the grandstands was his: Jean Alesi's - as a tribute to the superior and mistakeless way he snatched the pole-position. A perfect start for the Frenchman who...

Dramatic qualifying: Jean Alesi takes the lead

The applause of some 35,000 visitors on the grandstands was his: Jean Alesi's - as a tribute to the superior and mistakeless way he snatched the pole-position. A perfect start for the Frenchman who thereby drove into his third DTM season. In his new Mercedes-Benz C-Klasse, at 1.34,834 minutes, Alesi pushed Audi's junior driver Martin Tomczyk in an Audi A4 DTM to second place, by 0.210 seconds. Audi's driver Tom Kristensen from Denmark took the third start position, the race on the 4.574 km Hockenheimring Baden-W?rttemberg being his DTM d?but.

Jean Alesi.
Photo by ITR e.V..

Best placed driver of a new Opel Vectra GTS V8 was Timo Scheider as seventh. Among those ten drivers who after 30 minutes joint timed practice fought for the pole position in one by one qualification there were three pilots from Audi, three from Opel and four from Mercedes-Benz. Today's dramatic qualifying promises a thrilling race for tomorrow, April 18th.

"Already on Friday, my team and I had set up the car so well that it perfectly matched both the characteristics of the raceway and my own personal driving style," says smiling winner Alesi, joking: "All we actually had to do was fuel the car and wash it." One thing that Alesi, 201 times Grand Prix fighter and darling of the public was especially glad about was the enthusiasm of the viewers: "Being encircled by fans actually is the greatest thing that can happen to a sportsman. It was really fantastic."

Alesi's boss, Mercedes-Benz' sporting director Norbert Haug, admitted: "Having all four new cars in the top ten is a dream result. Congratulations to the HWA team and their drivers. But the race is not done yet. I am expecting a full house, and I believe that tomorrow we will see full action."

In two respects, the race was a premiere for Tom Kristensen, 5 times winner of the Le Mans 24 hours. Due to Audi's factory-side comeback, Kristensen came to DTM. He had never been on Hockenheim's Grand Prix Circuit before. "This makes his performance even more impressive," Audi's sporting director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich lauds: "I am glad to have us in DTM, to have seen our junior Martin Tomczyk do a very good job and a second place, and to have had things going so well so far. There is an incredible closeness in performance in DTM. If, after all, you get three cars into the top ten, this is brilliant."

Full of joy, Danish driver Tom Kristensen commented his start position: "Everything is new, and I am most content." When asked for his opinion on the fans' strong interest and them crowding at the paddock, he said: "All I have to do is get up earlier, since I have to sign quite a few autgraphs before getting into the team tent. I don't mind. I like that."

Another debut had been expected with great curiosity, but it did not turn out as desired. In spite of that, 1997's Formula 1 runner-up Heinz-Harald Frentzen was relaxed about his start position (16): "I had to realize that things have to match perfectly if you want to belong to the top of the field. That's what didn't work with me." Frentzen had to interrupt his first attempt.

Impaired by a blocked gearbox, his Opel colleague Peter Dumbreck had damaged his Opel Vectra GTS V8, kicking the wall. Due to this accident timed practice had to been interrupted. "On my last attack, I pushed too hard", says Frentzen, "and then I spun". Popular Opel novice Frentzen analyzed: "My Vectra was still a bit nervous. For some reasons, I have not yet managed to work out the perfect compromise in setup for different parts of the track."

Opel youngster Timo Scheider was happy: "Having three Opels in the top ten gives me a good feeling. Unfortunately, after a braking mistake at the joint timed practice, I was too careful during the one by one." Opel sporting director Volker Strycek says: "We will now carefully analyze the things that didn't work out, and tomorrow we will drive into the race with a newly set up car. It was simply extremely tight, and having three completely new cars at the Super Pole is a success after all."

-dtm-

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Series DTM
Drivers Jean Alesi , Tom Kristensen , Peter Dumbreck , Martin Tomczyk , Timo Scheider , Norbert Haug , Volker Strycek