DTM

Norisring: Qualifying report

First pole for Mattias Ekström - competition closer than ever In qualifying for the fifth round of the DTM at the Norisring in Nuremberg, Matias Ekström claimed the first pole position of his DTM-career. The 24-year old Swede, who is competing...

First pole for Mattias Ekström - competition closer than ever

In qualifying for the fifth round of the DTM at the Norisring in Nuremberg, Matias Ekström claimed the first pole position of his DTM-career. The 24-year old Swede, who is competing for the Team Abt Sportsline, lapped the 2.3 km long street circuit in 49.239 seconds. "Last year, I had a lot of difficulties here, but this time, everything seems to work as planned," said the Swede. With his best time, he was 0.130 seconds faster than his French team-mate, DTM points leader Laurent Aiello.

Reigning champion Bernd Schneider drove, as the fastest driver with a Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM, exactly the same time as his fellow Mercedes-driver Uwe Alzen. Because Schneider set his time earlier than Alzen, he will be starting into the qualification race from third place and Alzen from fourth place. At the Norisring, the very close competition in the DTM showed once more. In free practice, for instance, all 21 drivers were within seven tenths of a second - a new record. Also record-like: the fastest qualifying time of the year 2002 is about a second faster than last year.

At the start of the session, there was a terrifying moment for Martin Tomczyk, as his Abt-Audi TT-R got out of control under braking for the Grundig-hairpin and hit the tyre barrier from the side. The session was interrupted for 22 minutes. "We still have to analyse the reason and see if we can get the car repaired for tomorrow. However, the most important thing is that Martin escaped unscathed," said team principal Hans-Jürgen Abt. His brother Christian Abt could only complete five of twelve possible laps in qualifying, as the gearbox of his Audo Coupé had exploded. Nevertheless, Abt made it into the top ten with his sixth position, just like his Austrian team-mate Karl Wendlinger.

Mercedes-Benz motorsport director Norbert Haug: "I am satisfied with the good team performance of our HWA-drivers, they are only 0.077 seconds apart. And with Bernd Schneider, Uwe Alzen and Jean Alesi, we have three drivers within the top five. Here, the time differences are very small, but just that is the fascination of the DTM." Bernd Schneider showed himself "very satisfied" with his grid position: "Tomorrow, it will be really exciting," said the brother-in-law of Oliver Bierhoff, member of the German national football team.

At Opel, people had probably expected more from qualifying than ninth place for Joachim Winkelhock. "I lost two tenths because of a slight mistake, but there was no way I could attack Mattias' best time," the Swabian said. "Now, I have to attack more in the race." Timo Scheider occupied tenth place on the grid, one place ahead of Manuel Reuter. "Given the close competition at the Norisring, the slightest mistake can put you down two or three rows on the grid," motorsport director Volker Strycek analysed. "We are not satisfied with our performance of today, as we were better yesterday. Now, we have to analyse, why we didn't reach the speed in qualifying."

-dtm-

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Series DTM
Drivers Jean Alesi , Karl Wendlinger , Laurent Aiello , Bernd Schneider , Joachim Winkelhock , Uwe Alzen , Manuel Reuter , Timo Scheider , Norbert Haug , Christian Abt , Mattias Ekström , Volker Strycek , Hans-Jurgen Abt