An extremely fast track, and then also drizzle: conditions in qualifying for the third round of the DTM at the 4.023 km long track of Donington Park (GB) in the British midlands couldn't have been more demanding, and qualifying was as exciting as...
An extremely fast track, and then also drizzle: conditions in qualifying for the third round of the DTM at the 4.023 km long track of Donington Park (GB) in the British midlands couldn't have been more demanding, and qualifying was as exciting as they come: in the very last minute of the session, Manuel Reuter set the fastest qualifying time (1.38.703 minutes) with the Opel Astra V8 Coupe, also Opel's first pole-position of this season. With his best time, Reuter outpaced erstwhile leader, Mercedes-star Jean Alesi (1.38.770), who already was almost certain of his pole. Reuter's fellow-Opel driver Alain Menu set the identical time as Alesi, which brought him third place on the grid. Best-placed Abt-Audi driver was Martin Tomczyk (1.39.361) in fourth place. After the qualifying session, the first three drivers were separated by only 0.067 seconds.
With only ten minutes to go in the highly dramatic 45 minutes' session, four of six Opel-drivers had locked out the first two grid rows completely: Manuel Reuter, Alain Menu, Timo Scheider and Joachim Winkelhock. Then, Jean Alesi made it to the front with a considerable effort -- no less than four tenths faster than all others. This fabulous time appeared to be the best, as rain became stronger again. But first, double British touring car champion Alain Menu set exactly the same lap time as Alesi, and then, Reuter sensationally claimed pole-position for tomorrow's qualification race. "That is the result of hard work", said a satisfied Reuter who already claimed the maiden victory for the Opel Calibra V6 at Donington in 1994. "At the first two rounds at Hockenheim and Zolder, we already saw, that our Astra Coupe is strong, here, we have been able to convert the potential into the pole-position."
"Incredible, how close things are in the DTM", says former F1-driver Jean Alesi. "Audi, Opel and Mercedes are equally fast from the basic concept. So it is really important to get the set-up of the car right, and then convert this on the track. For me, these equal chances are the main difference between the DTM and Formula 1." „For Alesi's team mate, three times DTM-champion Bernd Schneider, qualifying was rather disappointing. The current third-placed in the points standings will be only starting from 16th place on the grid. "We thought that we could achieve fast lap times with slick tyres. But whenever I was at the track, it started to drizzle. In such conditions, there always are winners and losers, and today, I am not one of the winners."
Frenchman Laurent Aiello had a similar experience to that of Schneider's. The leader in the championship, following victories in Hockenheim and Zolder, was only 17th with his Abt-Audi TT-R, and was puzzled: "In free practice this morning, I was fastest, therefore we didn't change anything on the car for qualifying. We don't understand yet, why I had no grip and therefore couldn't do any quick laps. Now, we will analyse why and will do everything to find a solution for tomorrow." Team principal Hans-Jurgen Abt: "I think that we will see one of the most exciting DTM-races ever tomorrow, with Laurent and Bernd starting from so far down the grid. I am proud of our youngster Martin Tomczyk, who has shown with his fourth place that our Abt-Audi has lost none of its competitiveness." Information about the race Points' standings (after two of ten rounds): 1. Laurent Aiello (Abt-Audi) 25 2. Mattias Ekstrom (Abt-Audi) 12 3. Bernd Schneider (Mercedes-Benz) 7 4. Christian Abt (Abt-Audi) 6 5. Jean Alesi (Mercedes-Benz) 4 6. Timo Scheider (Opel) 4 7. Martin Tomczyk (Abt-Audi) 3 8. Michael Bartels (Opel) 1 9. Christijan Albers (Mercedes-Benz) 1 10. Karl Wendlinger(Abt-Audi) 1 DTM time schedule (local time GB*): Sunday, May 19: 9.30-10.00 warm-up 14.15 start qualification race 15.00 start main race (including pit stop)