By Nancy Knapp Schilke
- Canadian earns pole by 0.132s
- Mercedes’ Spengler the best of four
- Ekstrom’s Audi on front row
Spengler earns season opener pole in Hockenheim
Pole is a great reward for the crew's fabulous work.
It came down to four drivers who had the shot of being the first pole winner in the new season and for the constructors it was two for two. The rival teams and drivers put on a great show in the final and 4th qualifying round of the day where each driver had just one lap to earn the pole.
Bruno Spengler was not going to be denied and laid down a lap of 1:34.270 in his HWA Mercedes and he knew the time to beat set by Mattias Ekstrom. The Canadian was the final driver to take to the track and his time landed him his 8th German Touring Masters (DTM) pole. It was also Spengler’s second pole at the German Hockenheimring.
"Pole position is brilliant,” smiled Spengler. “After practice, I wouldn't have thought it possible because I did so little running this morning. Pole is a great reward for the crew's fabulous work. Let's hope it continues for the race.”
Ekstrom had the time to beat, having laid down a fast lap of 1:34.402 in his Abt Audi as the first driver to go out for the single-lap attempt. The new dad was pleased with his time but he had to wait out the other three to see what grid slot he would have for the start of Sunday’s race. Ekstrom’s time did place him on the front row.
"This qualifying session was a nail-biting one for our Abt squad,” said Ekstrom. “The car wasn’t so good at first. But every time I went out we made some changes. In the end my A4 was perfect and I managed a good lap. Naturally, I’d prefer having finished in first place but this will be my goal for tomorrow - because that’s when the points will be awarded."
The pole winner’s teammate Ralf Schumacher had a strong qualifying and his shoot-out lap for the pole came up a short by three-tenths of a second. Still the German will start the race in third with a time of 1:34.577.
"So far, this weekend has gone very well for me. I almost managed to get on the front row, but didn't quite pull it off,” Schumacher said. “The guys in the team have worked well. It was a long, hard winter but it appears to have paid off."
Abt Audi’s Timo Scheider had a hairy moment on his lap when breaking for the Spitzkehre hairpin, but he carried on and will start fourth. "Things were going really well, the performance of the car was right too. In Qualifying 3, though, I had to drive two laps on one set of tires. That affected me in Q4 because the grip level was clearly lower than just after one lap. Then, while heading for the hairpin, I made a mistake to top it off. I had no choice, however, but to take the full risk. But even from the second row we’ve got every chance to be in contention,” he said.
Starting 5th is Mike Rockenfeller who had a very fast lap time out of the four segments but missed making it into the final segment. His time in his Abt Audi was 1:34.194. "I’m a little disappointed, but on the other hand position five isn’t the worst place on the grid. Unfortunately, I made a mistake at the entrance to the Motodrom in Q3. I was shooting for too much. My car started understeering, I missed the line and lost one and a half tenths in the process. The way the car was performing, I could have achieved a better result,” he said, adding, “Our speed on the whole was right throughout the weekend. I’m hoping to make up some ground with a good strategy on Sunday."
Also making it through the third qualifying segment was Martin Tomczyk for Phoenix Audi. He will start 6th with a best lap of 1:34.285. "On the whole, I can be happy with the overall result,” he said. “Personally, though, I’m not happy at all. I made a big mistake in Q3. It kept me from making it into the fourth qualifying segment. I was among the front runners throughout and then this happens to me in Q3 of all times ..."
Starting on the fourth row will be Maro Engel at a 1:34.386 for the Mucke Mercedes team and another of the Abt Audis with Miguel Molina at the wheel and his best time was 1:35.268.
There are a total of 18 at this event but today the first qualifying segment was red flagged when last year’s season opener winner Gary Paffett took his Mercedes for a spin, causing him to be out of the game. He will start 18th on the grid.