Mattias Ekstrom is fighting a lonely battle this year, as the only Audi driver in the top five for the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) points, and today his Audi was the only one among the top six in qualifying at the ...
Mattias Ekstrom is fighting a lonely battle this year, as the only Audi driver in the top five for the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) points, and today his Audi was the only one among the top six in qualifying at the Nurburgring.
However, a flawless lap by the two-time DTM champion put him clearly on the pole position and ahead of a gaggle of five Mercedes rivals, an amazing 0.395 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, championship leader Bruno Spengler.
"Driving is sheer joy when you have such a great car," Ekstrom smiled. "I achieved a perfect lap and when you get a perfect lap together, you can be quite proud. When you are the fastest on top of that, it is just great."
Second in the opening segment, then fifth and finally fastest in the third and penultimate segment, the Swede then put it all together in the single-lap shootout to claim the pole with a time of 1:23.817.
Spengler topped the timesheets in the first two segments, but then just scraped into the final one with a quick lap as the chequered flag fell for the end of the third segment.
"Second place is not that bad, Mattias just had the better performance," Spengler admitted. "Tomorrow, I'll be starting from the inside, so from the dirty side. I will have to attempt overtaking Mattias in the first corner."
Spengler's lap of 1:24.212 was no match for Ekstrom's performance, but it was enough to edge the other two Mercedes in the final segment: Jamie Green was a tenth slower with a time of 1:24.310, and Paul di Resta followed close behind at 1:24.376.
Mercedes also claimed the third row of the grid, as Gary Paffett and Norisring pole winner Ralf Schumacher just missed out on the final segment.
It's not until the fourth row, then, that we will see another Audi: Miguel Molina, in a 2008-spec car, and defending champion Timo Scheider will be the first Audis to support Ekstrom's fight at the front.
"I am not worried by the fact that there are so many Mercedes behind " me, Ekstrom said, though. "Anyone driving here is driving his own race."
Jamie Green (Mercedes) and Martin Tomczyk (Audi) both had their fastest lap times disallowed for cutting a chicane, Green in the first segment and Tomczyk in the second. Tomczyk's timing proved disastrous, as his second-best lap was not enough to progress into the third segment.
Tomorrow's race will mark the halfway point in the DTM season, and Ekstrom will be looking to close the gap on Spengler, who leads the standings with 32 points, 10 more than Green and 11 ahead of Ekstrom.
Fourth in the standings is Paffett and the Di Resta, so the top five on the grid are all also in the top five in the points -- there is no "supporting cast" at the front, everyone will still be aiming at the 2010 championship.
Tomorrow afternoon, then, may see things evening out, but Spengler will certainly be looking for the opportunity to stretch out his points lead.