DTM makes its first appearance at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya this weekend and Audi came out fighting. Martin Tomczyk claimed pole position with a best time of 1:13.900 round the 2.95 km short track and Heinz-Harald Frentzen was less than a tenth down in second. His teammate Tom Kristensen completed the top three, a tenth behind.
Like Friday, the Saturday morning practice was wet and while it had stopped raining for the afternoon qualifying the track was still damp. There was a lot of spray as the cars spooled out for the first 14 minute session so there wasn't going to be any particularly quick laps to start with.
The Mercedes of championship leader Bernd Schneider clocked 1:15.341 to start with but was soon overtaken by the year-old Mercedes of Alexandros Margaritis and Kristensen. Frentzen soon replaced them and Tomczyk took fourth, while Pierre Kaffer' year-old Audi went one better for third and Jean Alesi put his similarly-aged Mercedes sixth.
The Audi's were going strong, the year-old car of Frank Stippler in seventh and Kristensen improved to second. Schneider and Mika H?kkinen held up Mercedes' charge and went first and second respectively. Also in the top 10 were the 2004 spec Mercedes of Mathias Lauda and Alesi, but one of the marque's front runners, Bruno Spengler, was in the drop zone with three minutes to go.
Timo Scheider's year-old Audi was late to run and posted a reasonable fifth and Jamie Green was similarly late to put his Mercedes third. Schneider was holding onto the top spot, 1:14.372, and Audi's Mattias Ekstr?m had a last minute run to make the top 10. Scheider went up to fourth but as time ran out Spengler couldn't make it into the next session.
The first six to be dropped were the 2004 spec Audi of Nicolas Kiesa and the 2005 version of Christian Abt, followed by four Mercedes drivers; the 2005 cars of Daniel la Rosa and Stefan M?cke, Spengler and Susie Stoddart's 2004 model. Vanina Ickx did well to go through in the 2004 Audi, as did Lauda in the same-year Mercedes. Schneider held on to the top, followed by Frentzen and Kristensen.
The track conditions were not much improved for the next, ten minute session. Once again Schneider led the way, his first time a 1:15.201. Tomczyk took over, while Stippler, Margaritis and Scheider queued up behind. Frentzen was next to go fastest and Kristensen slotted into third, then it started to rain again which was no help to those outside the top eight.
In the final couple of minutes it was four Audis at the front but Schneider made a late effort for third. He got dropped a place and H?kkinen also put in a last minute lap to take fourth off him, leaving it an Audi one-two-three. The six dropped were Scheider, Lauda, Alesi, Kaffer, Green and Ickx, while Frentzen, Kristensen and Tomczyk were at the front.
The track had dried some more by the time the last eight went out for the final dash pole session. The Audi duo of Tomczyk and Ekstr?m were the early front runners, followed by Schneider and Margaritas, then Stippler went ahead of Schneider and Frentzen took second. Schneider came back to take third and H?kkinen managed fifth.
In the last minute Kristensen clocked third and it remained an Audi one-two three, Tomczyk on pole position with Frentzen alongside and Kristenesen behind. The Dane's title rival Schneider is next to him on the grid so there will no doubt be a good battle at the start. Final top eight classification: Tomczyk, Frentzen, Kristensen, Schneider, H?kkinen, Ekstr?m, Stippler, Maragaritis.