DTM

Hakkinen takes Spa pole in wet qualifying

Hakkinen takes Spa pole in wet qualifying

Mika Häkkinen took his first DTM pole position in qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, where the Mercedes man posted a best of 2:32.729 in the super-pole session. In very wet conditions, Audi's Mattias Ekström took second on the grid and the...

Mika H?kkinen took his first DTM pole position in qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, where the Mercedes man posted a best of 2:32.729 in the super-pole session. In very wet conditions, Audi's Mattias Ekstr?m took second on the grid and the year-old Audi of Christian Abt was third.

Mika Hakkinen.
Photo by ITR e.V..

Following ballast awards from the first two races -- which applies to all the 2005 spec cars of a manufacturer -- Mercedes is running 20kg heavier this weekend, the maximum additional weight. Audi is the same weight as at the beginning of the season and Opel is 20kg lighter.

The rain was falling heavily throughout both qualifying sessions. The first open session saw spins and off track excursions aplenty and a pair of Opel drivers got the best of conditions. Laurent Aiello headed the times, 2:31.928, followed by Marcel F?ssler.

Mercedes had mixed fortunes but managed to get four cars in the top ten. Unfortunately, Gary Paffett, who took the tenth best time, went off track and impacted with the barrier, destroying the back of his C-Class. Mercedes was unable to repair it in time for Paffett's super-pole run so he was unable to improve his position.

Jean Alesi, H?kkinen and Jamie Green were the other three Mercedes drivers to make the super-pole. Bernd Schneider was just outside in 12th. Audi had Tom Kristensen and Mattias Ekstr?m in third and fourth behind the top Opels and Pierre Kaffer and Christian Abt also made the top ten in the year old Audis.

Alesi was out first in the super-pole, due to Paffett not running, and he had a brief trip into the gravel which lost him a few seconds and his time was 2:36.884, which put him eighth at the end. H?kkinen followed on and had a good, smooth lap which gave him provisional pole with 2:32.729.

Abt had a reasonable lap in the Audi but got a little bit out of shape through the Bus Stop chicane but it was good enough for third, where he stayed. Kaffer didn't do too badly and his lap put him fifth overall. Green made an almost carbon copy of Alesi's mistake, although his trip through the gravel was a little more extensive and he finished ninth at the end.

Ekstr?m was the closest yet to H?kkinen, half a second off, and took second. Kristensen made sixth on his flyer but then went off track on his in lap and the Audi got wedged in the gravel. F?ssler was already on his flyer, and Aiello on his out lap, but the session was red-flagged while the Audi was extracted, so the two Opels had to run again.

By now there was even more water on the track, some areas almost flooded. F?ssler finally went out again and took fourth, while Aiello posted seventh, so the Opels were not quite so hot in the super-pole. However, even with the weight advantage, the marque looks quite competitive this weekend.

A deserved result for H?kkinen, whose lap turned out to be much better than it looked, although it didn't look bad anyway. It's the first time the DTM has raced at Spa and although the teams tested at the circuit prior to the start of the season, naturally those who have raced there in the past will know the track better.

"I'm really happy about my first pole position in my third DTM race," said H?kkinen. "The tyres had good grip and the car ran very well so it didn't even matter when I made a small mistake. Thanks a lot to everybody, I will now try and make the best out of my pole position in Sunday's race -- preferably the same position as today."

Ekstr?m was happy enough with his lap: "I'm very pleased to be starting from the first row for my first race at Spa," he commented. "I didn't make any mistakes in my Super Pole lap and never had the feeling of being too slow. It was just a question of how much you'd risk in the fast corners. And I didn't want to risk too much."

Abt was pleased it rained as he missed a lot of track time on Friday due to his car going up in flames: "Starting from third place is a small reward for the whole team which had to work late into the night after yesterday's fire to repair my car," he said. "In the rain it was absolutely perfect today."

As for the weather, race day is predicted to be changeable. The qualifying conditions saw many cars sliding around, coming off track and being generally unpredictable, so if Sunday is as wet, anything could happen.

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Series DTM
Drivers Jean Alesi , Mika Hakkinen , Tom Kristensen , Laurent Aiello , Bernd Schneider , Christian Abt , Gary Paffett , Pierre Kaffer , Jamie Green