Ralf Schumacher shocked the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) field and fans alike today with his first pole position in the series at the Norisring circuit. A perenneial midfielder since his 2008 entry into the series, the ex-Formula One driver took the top spot on the grid by 0.069 seconds over fellow Mercedes driver Bruno Spengler.
"To be honest, I am surprised myself by what has happened here," Schumacher admitted. "The Norisring suits me. Of course, pole position is great, although I already expected Bruno to beat my time. Of course, victory on Sunday would be the icing on the cake."
With only five points-paying finishes in three DTM seasons so far, and a best finish of fifth, a victory may seem like a stretch for Schumacher, but the German was consistently fast in each of the four qualifying segments. Might he have finally found his comfort zone in a DTM car -- and a 2008-spec one at that?
Unable to beat Schumacher's opening bid in the final single-lap qualifying session, Spengler just missed out on his eighth DTM pole position. However, second place is an excellent position for the 26-year-old Canadian to try to add onto his championship points lead, as nearest rivals Paul di Resta and Gary Paffett -- both also driving for Mercedes -- will be starting eighth and seventh, respectively.
Jamie Green, though, still made it an all-Mercedes top three, just over two tenths slower than Schumacher. He was only two hundredths faster than the best of the Audi drivers, though: Martin Tomczyk had looked to be a threat in the final qualifying segment, but the German veteran lightly brushed the wall on his final qualifying run, finishing 0.249 seconds behind the pole position.
"Unfortunately, my rear tyres had no grip whatsoever," Tomczyk recalled. "When I turned into the Scholler-S, the rear of the car slid out. Therefore, I couldn't do any better. But it is what it is."
Mattias Ekstrom, Audi's best hope in the championship battle at the moment, albeit with only half the points Spengler has, will be starting fifth, after missing out on the final qualifying segment by just a few hundredths of a second.
Oliver Jarvis, in the best of the 2008-spec Audis, will start sixth, ahead of Paffett and di Resta.
The race will go green at 1:30 PM CET on Sunday.