Timo Scheider has suffered from a series of misfortunes in the 2010 DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) season, but he's looking to put it all behind him now, as he will start his Audi A4 from the pole position in tomorrow's race at Hockenheim, the season's last DTM race on German soil.
Champion in 2008 and 2009, Scheider has yet to stand on the top step of the podium this year, and he was mathematically eliminated from the title chase when he suffered a puncture in the last race.
"I'm overjoyed, especially after Oschersleben where we lost a possible victory due to a foreign object in the tire," Scheider smiled after qualifying. "It's nice to come back after such a race and not to fall into a psychological hole. We were able to show the same performance again, albeit in wet conditions today."
In the wet conditions on the Hockenheim track, Scheider showed skill and poise in scoring the fastest times in the second and fourth qualifying segments -- his Audi teammate Mike Rockenfeller did the same in the first and third segments -- without taking excessive risks and spinning off the track.
Rockenfeller, who hails from the nearby town of Neuwied, was at the wheel of an older-spec A4 and will start Sunday's race second on the grid. He has seen plenty of wet weather through his sports car and endurance experience and he put it to good use on the soggy circuit, never being out of the top three in any of the qualifying segments.
"In qualifying I was missing a little of the grip I had in the morning," Rockenfeller said. "Still, I made it all the way into Q4. When I saw Timo's (Scheider) lap I knew that it would be difficult for me. On the whole, I'm extremely pleased."
Gary Paffett was the only Mercedes driver to make it into the Q4 shootout, and one of only two -- along with Paul di Resta -- in the top eight. None of the C-Class drivers were able to find good grip in the conditions, but Paffett still managed to manhandle his car into the final segment.
And when Alexandre Premat, in another 2008-spec Audi A4, failed to put together a clean lap in the final shootout, third place was assured for Paffett. With only three races remaining in the season, the Briton's focus is on the championship, and for that third place is almost as good as a pole position.
"In these conditions, third place is still OK," he reflected. "Of course I'd prefer a better grid position, but I didn't want to take too many chances - in the wet you can also lose a lot. Admittedly, my chances of winning the title aren't particularly good anymore, but we are trying everything."
Paffett, the 2005 champion, is 16 points adrift of the points leader Bruno Spengler, who failed to make it into Q3 for the first time in 2010, and qualified 11th.
"I was not able to get my tyres warmed up in these difficult conditions," the Canadian explained. "I was sliding all the way and thus I couldn't set fast lap times."
The one consolation for Spengler is that Audi driver Martin Tomczyk, who qualified sixth, will take a five-position grid penalty tomorrow for ignoring a yellow flag in the second practice session, moving Spengler up by one position and onto the tenth row.
di Resta, who stands second in the championship, will start fifth, with a good opportunity to make up some of his seven-point deficit to Spengler.
The only Audi driver not yet mathematically eliminated from the championship fight, 2004 and 2007 champion Mattias Ekstrom, is now one step closer to the elimination after failing to make it through to the second segment. The Swedish veteran slipped back into the pits for a new set of rain tires, and seemed to be able to squeak into the top 14, but moments later his lap was bettered by David Coulthard, leaving Ekstrom back in 15th on the grid.
"I was not able to get my tyres warmed up in these difficult conditions," Ekstrom explained. "I was sliding all the way and thus I couldn't set fast lap times."
The overnight weather at Hockenheim calls for more rain, ensuring that there will be little rubber left on the track tomorrow, but the Sunday weather has only a 30% chance of showers.
Even with a dry track, the rain-scrambled grid should ensure a particularly interesting DTM race tomorrow.