Tom Kristensen is looking to go out with a bang, not a whimper. The Danish sportscar veteran, who will be leaving DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) at the end of the year, took his second pole of the season today at Barcelona, and he'll be looking for a second victory tomorrow to go with the one he scored at Hockenheim earlier this year.
"The car became better and better and my engineer has found exactly the right set-up," said Kristensen. "Everything was just spot-on. As a driver, you always concentrate on how the car handles and you try to optimise this."
Kristensen, who has returned to form in recent races after some difficult races earlier in the season, was consistently near the sharp end of the field in qualifying, and got his car to work when it mattered, setting the fastest times in the third and fourth segments to take his seventh career DTM pole. As befits DTM, the margin was slim once again: his Audi A4 was just 0.064 seconds faster than the Mercedes C-class of Paul di Resta.
Di Resta thought that a perfect lap might have been enough to put him on the pole, but he wasn't able to test his theory, as a small mistake cost him on his final flying lap.
"That was a real close qualifying," di Resta recalled. "In the final session, I made a slight error, but all in all, I am very happy with my performance. We had a good pace and can now be optimistic for the race."
Martin Tomczyk took third for Audi, 0.154 seconds behind di Resta, a creditable performance after having used up his supply of fresh tires by the third qualifying segment. The DTM veteran was forced to make his final flying lap on a set of used tires, and lost three tenths compared to his third-segment time.
"Of course I'm happy considering the fact that I didn't have a new set of tires anymore for the fourth qualifying," he explained. "It's always tricky when you're about to start to section four, knowing you'll really have a hard time advancing to first or second place. I gave all I had and am only two-and-a-half tenths behind the drivers who were running on new tires. I'm pleased with that, a better result just wasn't possible."
Bruno Spengler had been the fourth driver to qualify for the final segment, but the Canadian Mercedes driver wasn't able to put a clean lap together in final qualifying, setting a time 0.357 seconds slower thank Kristensen's.
"I had quite a good qualifying, although I made two mistakes on my first lap in Q3," he recalled. "In the single-lap qualifying; I suffered from a misfire at the final corner and thus missed a better time."
And it got worse for Spengler: as he finished his cool-down lap, his Mercedes coasted across the line, out of fuel. The team had accidentally under-filled his car, and without any fuel left in the tank for testing, the DTM stewards penalized the Canadian for insufficient fuel level, canceling his third- and fourth-segment times. He will now start eighth, with Gary Paffett taking his place on the second row.
Behind Paffett, sharing the third row, will be Audi teammates Timo Scheider and Mattias Ekstrom, who are locked in a three-way battle for the championship with Paffett. With Scheider holding a 43-38 lead over Ekstrom (and 43-34 over Paffett), his focus will be on ensuring that he not lose ground this weekend.
The race is set for a 2 PM start (local time) tomorrow.