Audi's Tom Kristensen claimed his maiden DTM pole position at the fifth round of the championship at Oschersleben, in a qualifying with a different format due to the weather. Kristensen clocked a best of 1:20.218 and fellow Audi driver Martin ...
Audi's Tom Kristensen claimed his maiden DTM pole position at the fifth round of the championship at Oschersleben, in a qualifying with a different format due to the weather. Kristensen clocked a best of 1:20.218 and fellow Audi driver Martin Tomczyk took second, nearly eight tenths down. The Mercedes of Gary Paffett was third.
Just prior to the first, open session a huge thunderstorm blew up and rain flooded parts of the track; the standing water was nearly knee deep in places afterwards. Qualifying was postponed for half an hour while the circuit was cleared, with pumps employed in the worst hit areas. The rain was still threatening, with further dark clouds massing.
When the track was deemed fit for action, officials decided to abandon the super pole session, which sees the top ten from the first session go out for individually timed laps, in favour of just one open session for half an hour. So qualifying was the good old-fashioned battle which we've not seen the like of for some years.
The Mercedes of Bernd Schneider was the first to venture out when the circuit went green and initially it was a matter of finding out what the conditions were like. Some parts of the track still had a fair amount of water on it but, after a few wobbles and slides, Schneider clocked a lowly 1:38.512 to start the proceedings.
The year-old Mercedes of Stefan M?cke took second, half a second down, then Jamie Green put his Mercedes at the front, 1:37.797. Green stayed out for another lap and bought his time down to 1:15.819. The Opels of Manuel Reuter and Heinz-Harald Frentzen followed on, Reuter taking over provisional pole with 1:35.375 and Frentzen second.
Pierre Kaffer was next to the top, 1:28.339 for the Audi man, and he was immediately demoted by Tomczyk's 1:25.235, for over three seconds faster. Tomczyk's teammate Mattias Ekstr?m quickly took over with a 1:24.838 and Paffett slotted into second, two and half tenths down.
More drivers were venturing out as the track improved and the time ticked away. Ekstr?m improved to 1:22.991 and the order behind him was Tomczyk, Audi's Frank Stippler and the Opels of Marcel F?ssler and Laurent Aiello. Surprisingly, given the conditions, there were few incidents, Mika H?kkinen being one of the few who had a trip over the grass.
Bruno Spengler put in a great effort for provisional pole in his year-old Mercedes, 1:22.657, while Paffett had a spin but managed to keep out of the mud. Kristensen snatched the top of the times by half a second, 1:22.177, and the Mercedes of Jean Alesi took second, half a second down.
The top order was then Kristensen, Alesi, Spengler, Audi's Christian Abt, Ekstr?m and the Audi of Allan McNish. Abt improved to third and Schneider came back with a 1:21.453 to take provisional pole. He was demoted by Paffett's 1:21.004 and Green took over the second slot. Frentzen as next to come to grief, floundering over the grass with mud flying everywhere.
Opel teammate Aiello fared better to take fourth, then Green had a muddy moment on the grass. Kristensen smashed the competition with a 1:20.218, nearly eight tenths up on Paffett, and it proved unbeatable. Tomczyk improved to second and Ekstr?m managed fifth but time ran out.
"My crew has done a perfect job for this very special qualifying session," said Kristensen. "Tyre temperature and air pressure were right on the dot, that's why I was able to drive a lap like I've never been able to before. As far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't mind if things continued going just like this."
Tomczyk was disappointed not to have the super pole session. "Generally speaking, it's too bad that because of such a storm you can't keep your normal rhythm and drive the super pole as well. But everyone had to live with that," he commented. "The situation was really such that the track was dry in the last two laps and you had to take a lot of risk. This time, it worked out well for me."
Paffett was happy enough to be ahead of title rival Ekstr?m. "Considering the fight for the championship I'm quite happy with my third position on the grid," he remarked. "It was the right decision to wait before I went out, however, in the end I could have used another lap to make it to the first row which I missed by some thousandths of a second."
It was an exciting session and reminded us just how much fun qualifying used to be before the introduction of the individually timed laps. Behind Kristensen and Tomczyk, Brits Paffett and Green commandeered the second row in third and fourth, while Ekstr?m and Aiello will share row three on the grid, fifth and sixth respectively.
Spengler kept himself in the top ten and will start seventh, alongside McNish in eighth. Stippler and Schneider rounded off the top ten in ninth and 10th respectively. And the big names of Alesi and H?kkinen? 19th and 20th! The stage looks set for a good race tomorrow, presuming the weather decides to behave itself.