Three Audi A4 DTM cars at the top in rain Ingolstadt/Nurburgring -- Seven races, five pole positions: The qualifying performance of the new Audi A4 in the DTM remains impressive. At the Nurburgring, Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen secured...
Three Audi A4 DTM cars at the top in rain
Ingolstadt/Nurburgring -- Seven races, five pole positions: The qualifying performance of the new Audi A4 in the DTM remains impressive. At the Nurburgring, Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen secured the best spot on the grid. Mike Rockenfeller at the wheel of his A4 from last year in second place caused a huge surprise. A total of three Audi A4 DTM cars will be starting to the race from the top grid positions on Sunday at 5:35 p.m.
Shortly before the beginning of the qualifying it started to rain in the Eifel after a thunderstorm. During the second session the rain became so heavy that race control saw no alternative but to stop the qualifying because the track was flooded with water. With no quick improvement in weather conditions in sight, the qualifying was stopped completely and, according to the DTM regulations, the first session was used to determine the grid positions.
The quickest in these difficult conditions was eight-time Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen, despite the fact that he -- like many other drivers -- was struggling with heavily fogged windows. For the Dane, this is the first pole position of the year and the first since the finale of the 2007 season at Hockenheim.
A strong performance as well was shown by Mike Rockenfeller, who in last year's A4 was leading for some of the time and bumped to second place by Tom Kristensen only at the last moment. This marks the first time in the 2008 DTM for a car from last year to start to a race from the front row on the grid.
Rockenfeller benefited from the premature stop of the second qualifying session in which he lost control on the flooded start-finish straight over his A4 and slipped off the track. Others were less fortunate: Last year's winner Martin, despite setting the best time in the second session, will start from position three. Leader of the standings Timo Scheider had to settle for ninth place on the grid, thus starting four positions behind his immediate rival in the title fight, Mattias Ekstrom.
Scheider can take some consolation from the fact that the three best-placed Mercedes drivers in the championship will be starting to the race only from positions twelve, 13 and 16 -- clearly further behind him.
For race day, thunderstorms are predicted again for the Eifel region so that the spectators -- not least owing to the somewhat unusual starting order -- can look forward to a particularly thrilling DTM race. Race start is at 5:35 p.m. (local time), ARD will broacast live from the Nurburgring on "das Erste" following Tour de France coverage. Background reports are available at Audi.tv on the internet.
Quotes after qualifying
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "A qualifying that has to be stopped is definitely not the thing you wish for. But there are clear regulations in place. We've seen similar situations in the American Le Mans Series. There, giving everything at any point in time has paid off for us as well -- and that's what we did also in the first qualifying session. The cars we've got on the first two rows of the grid reflect our team performance. The grid positions are a good prerequisite for the race. But the weather forecast for tomorrow is similar to today's, and that means the whole situation can change again. But we've got the chance to achieve a good result for Audi now and that's our goal."
Tom Kristensen (Audi A4 DTM #9): "In the first session the conditions were still okay. After my first lap in the second section, very heavy rain started. Even on the straight that meant you had to lift. There's no doubt that the decision to stop the qualifying was right. I'd have liked to go out again later, but under these circumstances it was the right decision to stop. Now, with a little bit of luck, I'm on pole and am happy for my team."
Mike Rockenfeller (S line Audi A4 DTM #18): "In qualifying two the weather conditions suddenly became really bad. I didn't have a countable lap yet and was not among the top eight, after being second in the first session. So I had to give everything although the car was hardly driveable in these conditions. I flew off the flooded track and into the tyre wall. Of course it's great for me that the the first qualifying session was classified after the stop. On the first row with a used car -- I managed that once in 2007 as well. I'm very satisfied even if luck played into my hands. It's never possible for everyone to be happy -- but I'm definitely happy today."
Martin Tomczyk (Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #2): "In the second qualifying session we showed that we're doing well in rain. As a racer, I always drive as fast as I can. Nobody can tell me that he drives half a second slower voluntarily. That's why it was a fair result, even though in a case like this some drivers are more fortunate than others."
Mattias Ekstrom (Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #1): "There was a huge amount of water on the track. The first session was quite okay. In the second one we were struggling somewhat. Then we were struck by fortune because, in the end, only the first session counted. After such a qualifying I'm really happy with fifth place."
Timo Scheider (GW:plus/Top Service Audi A4 DTM #10): "That was definitely a wet experience! Personally, I'm very disappointed that only the first session counted in the end. We had decided to wait in the pit lane and not to risk anything because the rain had become heavier. That was our downfall. As far as the speed was concerned, we could have been on the second row, but now it's turned into ninth place. That's very frustrating for me, and very nice for Tom (Kristensen) -- congratulations to him. He was at the right place at the right time. For me, this means I've got my work cut out for me on Sunday. I'm hoping for the support from my fans."
Alexandre Premat (Audi Bank/Shell Helix Audi A4 DTM #14): "That was a qualifying in very difficult conditions in the rain. Unfortunately, the qualifying was stopped. Had it continued, I could have done better. Now I've got to make something better of grid position ten."
Markus Winkelhock (Playboy Audi A4 DTM #19): "A mediocre result for me. Had I known that in the end only the first qualifying would count, I would have driven faster from the outset. I didn't want to take any risk because I knew that I had made it into the next session. I had already been looking forward to the last qualifying. Now everything got turned around -- too bad."
Christijan Albers (Audi A4 DTM #21): "It's a real shame because my car had no more grip whatsoever. In the free practice we had been really good. We knew that we'd have a problem in rain. And we definitely did."
Oliver Jarvis (Best Buddies Audi A4 DTM #15): "On the first lap the car felt really good. We would have made it into the top eight without any problem. But on my second lap I made a mistake and slid into the guard rails. The damage was too severy to be repaired immediately. I can only apologise to the team for my big slip. That was a real pity."
Katherine Legge (Audi A4 DTM #20): "Unfortunately, things were going very bad for us. My team-mate Christijan (Albers) and I both had a hard time in the rain. I made a few mistakes and vision through the windscreen was very poor. I'm hoping for better weather on Sunday."
Hans-Jurgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): "That was a very turbulent qualifying. But these are situations you've got to be able to deal with as well. I'm very happy for Tom Kristensen, who clinched his first pole position this season. The rain brought suspense today and will probably make for an exciting race on Sunday when similar conditions are expected. We're now working on being well prepared for them."
Ernst Moser (Team Director Audi Sport Team Phoenix): "The floodgates opened. Today, anything was possible as was evident with Mike Rockenfeller. Unfortunately, Oliver's (Jarvis) braking point was a bit optimistic so that we lost a car in the process. Alex (Premat) was really picking up speed at the end of the firs session and came tenth. We were hopeful to make it into the last session. Because the qualifying was stopped we weren't able to counter any more. But tenth place isn't really that bad."
Arno Zensen (Team Director Audi Sport Team Rosberg): "My heart dropped! Second place straight from the start was great and in the free practice we'd been strong as well. 'Rocky' thought that the things that work in the dry would work in the rain as well. After his accident I thought it was all over. But according to the regulatins, the session that was finished is classified. Finally, fortune, which 'Rocky' has been chasing for such a long time, was on his side. And I think he deserved it."