Three Audi cars on first two rows
Strong team performance in qualifying at Zandvoort
Tom Kristensen obstructed on his fastest lap
Five Audi A4 DTM cars in top eight
In the qualifying practice for the DTM race at Zandvoort (the Netherlands) Audi managed to show the squad's strongest performance so far this year. Five Audi drivers made it into the top eight in the three-part "shoot-out" for the best positions on the grid. Tom Kristensen, Martin Tomczyk and Mattias Ekström have put three Audi A4 DTM cars of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline on the first two rows. Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Pierre Kaffer will be lying in wait for the race starting at 2 p.m. (local time) on Sunday not far behind them, in positions six and eight.
A possible pole position for Audi was frustrated by a controversial action by the Mercedes factory team HWA which had sent its driver Bruno Spengler back out shortly before the end of the qualifying - directly in front of Tom Kristensen who was just starting his qualifying lap at the same time. The Dane was forced to overtake Spengler on the outside in the famous "Tarzan Bocht", causing him to lose more than the 75 thousandths of a second he was ultimately lacking for the pole position.
The scene that sparked a heated debate in the paddock shows how much fiercer the DTM title fight has become before the final four races. Tom Kristensen is merely twelve points behind the current DTM leader, Bernd Schneider, and has excellent chances to reduce the gap since Schneider is merely starting from the fourth row in seventh position.
Quickest driver of a car from last year was Pierre Kaffer (Audi Sport Team Phoenix), who managed to make it into the final section of the shoot-out qualifying for the first time. Another driver with reason to rejoice was Vanina Ickx: on the DTM season's most demanding circuit the Audi driver was quicker in a qualifying practice than Mercedes' female driver Susie Stoddard for the first time.
Given that the title fight is beginning to come to a head, the DTM fans can look forward to a particularly nail-biting DTM race. The race will start on Sunday at 2 p.m. (local time).
Just before race start the dune circuit will be the scene of an unusual competition in which Marco Werner at the wheel of the 2004 DTM Champion's car will compete against a Formula 3 and a Red Bull Formula 1 car.
Quotes after qualifying
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "We showed a very strong team performance which we can be proud of. Unfortunately, Tom (Kristensen) was obstructed on his quickest lap, which caused him to lose time in the first turn. That was totally unnecessary because Bruno Spengler went out on new tyres at a time when it was completely clear that he wouldn't be able to complete a whole lap."
Tom Kristensen: "I lost a bit of my concentration when Spengler left the pit in front of me. Whether or not this has cost me pole is hard to say, but of course I was somewhat baffled. Other than that, it was a good qualifying with maximum attack. All of my laps were at the limit. I'm very satisfied about being on the front row. The Audi squad has improved. Our times are now closer to each other. It's good to have four cars among the top six here. But that was also necessary for maintaining our chances in the Championship."
Martin Tomczyk: "I'm satisfied because - finally - I've driven my fastest lap again on a weekend in qualifying - in other words when it counts most. The car was good, everything went smoothly. Third place is a super starting base and that one Mercedes at the front we'll get rid of as well..."
Mattias Ekström: "I'm a bit surprised that none of the Audi drivers managed to finish at the very front and that a Mercedes was able to set such a good time. The performances of our cars were very balanced. I couldn't have driven any faster than I did. My car was perfect and I'm satisfied with my qualifying. Of course the result would be even nicer if there weren't a Mercedes at the front."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen: "In the penultimate trial I was clocking pretty good times. Unfortunately, my car had a bit too much understeer on the last set of tyres. Perhaps the inflation pressure wasn't optimal. We need to take a closer look at this."
Pierre Kaffer: "In today's qualifying everything fit to a T for the first time this season. The team did a good job. In the morning we made a few more changes which paid off. I'm happy that we made it to the first section and were able to bring home the result. At the beginning of the season we often lost out when we were slowed by traffic. Today, luck was on our side."
Timo Scheider: "I'm a disappointed. Twice I was unfortunate to have sand on the track. Once Jean Alesi went off in front of me which cost me two or three tenths. On the last trial someone had apparently left the line in front of the chicane as well, putting sand on the tarmac. I noticed this in the next right-hander when I wasn't able to turn in properly with a dirty front left-hand tyre. That's a shame, we'd been hoping for a better result."
Christian Abt: "The first outing was okay. In the second one I unfortunately made a braking mistake in the first turn on the first set of tyres, and the second set wasn't optimal. In the first two corners I had no grip. Still, I made up four tenths there to my previous time. But in the last sector I lost it all again. That's the DTM - you can be at the very front but if you make a mistake you're out again. On Sunday, everything is still possible."
Frank Stippler: "On Friday we lost a whole day because the tyres were picking up too much rubber from other cars. So, actually, our testing work didn't start until Saturday. This meant that we'd been off to a late start with our entire programme and that had an effect on the qualifying. Now we need to give our best in the race."
Nicolas Kiesa: "We didn't achieve the best time we could have today. Too bad that I had the misfortune of three cars leaving the pit lane in front of me while I was out on the second set of tyres. I managed to overtake two of them but for the third car, I had to leave the racing line and that cost me time in front of the chicane. My tyres picked up dirt, locked, and I had to stop my lap."
Vanina Ickx: "Today I've got reason to celebrate because I didn't finish in the last position! Considering the gap when we started on Friday, we're now pretty close to the guys in front of us. We're not lacking a lot. We improved by three seconds overnight. That's great!"
Hans-Jürgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): "Altogether, things were going well for our team because all cars are among the top eight. Too bad that Tom (Kristensen) was obstructed a bit by the action with Spengler. Otherwise, he may have clinched pole. The fact that the gap between Tom Kristensen and Bernd Schneider is as large as it is gives us a very positive feeling."
Ernst Moser (Team Director Audi Sport Team Phoenix): "It's great that Pierre (Kaffer) made it into the top eight because we'd had some concerns before. Pierre clocked a super time - well done! Of Christian (Abt) we'd expected more. Unfortunately, he made a braking mistake in the first and second section. It would have been nice to see him get further towards the front as well to bump Spengler from the top eight after all."
Arno Zensen (Team Director Audi Sport Team Rosberg): "After the free practice I'd been hoping for a better result. It's a shame that Frank (Stippler) didn't get ahead any further as early as in the first part of the q ualifying. In the first fast turn he had an excursion into the gravel which didn't help his self-confidence. Timo (Scheider) didn't do a bad job of driving but I'd placed higher hopes on him as well. On the other hand, his grid position isn't all that bad either. Chances are that we'll be having a good race."
Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Siemens Audi A4 DTM #7
2nd Place, 1m 33.072s / 1m 32.038s / 1m 32.189s
Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #4
3rd place, 1m 33.124s / 1m 32.697s / 1m 32.277s
Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #5
4th place, 1m 33.303s / 1m 32.559s / 1m 32.302s
Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Veltins Audi A4 DTM #6
6th place, 1m 33.572s / 1m 32.382s / 1m 32.806s
Audi Sport Team Phoenix, Castrol Audi A4 DTM #14
8th place, 1m 34.049s / 1m 33.049s / 1m 32.857s
Audi Sport Team Rosberg, Gebrauchtwagen:plus Audi A4 DTM #16
11th place, 1m 33.724s / 1m 33.304s
Audi Sport Team Phoenix, Playboy Audi A4 DTM #12
12th place, 1m 33.449s / 1m 33.513s
Audi Sport Team Rosberg, S line Audi A4 DTM #15
16th place, 1m 34.211s
Futurecom TME, Futurecom Audi A4 DTM #19
18th, 1m 34.694s
Futurecom TME, Original Zubehör Audi A4 DTM #20
19th, 1m 34.768s