Berthold Bouman, DTM correspondent
Round two: Lausitzring
Round two of the 2012 German Touringcar Masters (DTM) championship takes place at the Eurospeed Lausitzring in Germany, just one week after the season opener in Hockenheim. The lap record on the 3.478km long circuit situated 130km south of Berlin is in the hands of Paul di Resta who set a time of 1m18.938s during the race in 2008. Last year Martin Tomczyk, now BMW driver, won the race for Audi.
Tomczyk (BMW Team RMG) about his 2011 victory, “That was a special moment. However, we will have to wait and see how the BMW M3 DTM goes at this very special track. The season opener in Hockenheim showed that we are competitive. Only Saturday’s qualifying will show to what extent the same is true at the Lausitzring. I obviously hope we are quick there too.”
The Lausitzring is definitely Mercedes territory as they have an impressive track record, they have claimed 12 pole positions and recorded nine race wins. Mercedes driver Gary Paffett (Team HWA), who won the race in 2009, commented, “The Lausitzring makes different demands from those we have to contend with at Hockenheim: the track is technically very demanding, with only one fast corner but several chicanes. It was clear in Hockenheim that our new DTM C-Coupé is very fast. Now, we aim to keep pushing and to improve our performance in qualifying.”
Audi’s Mattias Ekstrom (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) has won the race twice before (2004, 2005) and is looking forward to this weekend’s race, “There’s no other race track in Germany that I’ve spent more time at than at the Lausitzring. So, I know the circuit inside and out. I have a lot of respect for the competition and know that we need to improve in the race. So, let’s grab the bull by the horns and try and change tack.”
Friday and Saturday practice sessions
On Friday Tomczyk was fastest with a time of 1m20.118s, and was closely followed by his American team mate Joey Hand who was just 0.017s slower than the 2011 DTM Champion. With his second place Hand was also the fastest DTM rookie on Friday. Also close was the number three, Mattias Ekstrom (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline), the Swede took third place just 0.024s slower than Tomczyk.
Fastest for Mercedes was Christian Vietoris (Mercedes Team HWA) who took fourth place while David Coulthard (Mercedes Mucke Motorsport) took sixth place. Hockenheim winner Gary Paffett (Mercedes Team HWA) was 12th with a time of 1m20.399s. Also good to see competition is close in DTM, as the first 20 were all within one second of pace setter Tomczyk.
On Saturday morning the cards were reshuffled again as Audi took the lead with Mike Rockenfeller (Team Phoenix Racing) who was fastest with a time of 1m18.352s. Audi dominated as they also took places two to seven. Surprise of the morning was third place man DTM rookie Adrian Tambay (Audi Sport Team Abt) who was 0.320s slower than Rockenfeller.
Best Mercedes driver was Jamie Green (Team HWA) on eighth place, while Augusto Farfus (BMW Team RBM) was fastest for BMW; the Brazilian took 10th place. Again close competition as last man David Coulthard (Mercedes Mucke Motorsport) took 22nd and last place, 1.128s slower than Rockenfeller.
Although rain was expected, Q1 started under a bright blue sky, and the sunny conditions would remain the same throughout the afternoon. Tomczyk was first to go out in his BMW but on cold tyres made two mistakes and he needed a second lap to set his first time in Q1. Edoardo Mortara (Audi Sport Team Rosberg) set the fastest time with 10 minutes still on the clock with a lap of 1m19,431s, he was followed by Miguel Molina (Audi Sport Phoenix Racing), Filipe Albuquerque (Audi Sport Team Rosberg), Farfus, Rockenfeller and Tomczyk.
Soon Paffett took third place while his marque colleague Green had problems exiting the first corner after the start finish straight and had to use part of the escape road. Despite his mishap he still managed to set the fastest time of the moment with a lap of 1m19,075s.
Again tyre saving tactics emerged as many drivers stayed in the pits before they went out for the final run in Q1. Bruno Spengler (BMW Team Schnitzer), meanwhile, had taken second with just four minutes left to go. He again improved his time and then led the field with a lap of 1m19.000s.
Scheider (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) was the only driver who had not yet put a time on the board, a bit risky but he now does have one set of fresh tyres more than the others. On his first lap he tried a bit too hard and kissed the wall on the start finish straight, he complained about a jumpy car but did a great job on his next lap and landed 12th place.
Ralf Schumacher (Mercedes Team HWA) was pushed out of the top 16 by Albuquerque with just eight thousands of a second and thus Schumacher, Roberto Merhi (Mercedes Team Persson Motorsport), Susie Wolff (Mercedes Team Persson Motorsport), Coulthard, Dirk Werner (BMW Team Schnitzer) and Rahel Frey (Audi Sport Team Abt) did not qualify for the second qualifying segment.
Sixteen drivers entered Q2, Ekstrom was out first to start a timed lap, he was quick and set a time of 1m18,875s. With seven minutes to go Farfus was fastest, followed by Ekstrom and Tomczyk. Also fast was Tambay who took sixth place at the time. Ekstrom then took back his first place again, at the same time Spengler went out for his run but the Canadian took sixth place on his first timed lap and then went back to the BMW garage to preserve his tyres.
Just two minutes to go and Paffett, Molina, Spengler, Rockenfeller and Andy Priaulx (BMW Team RBM) were in the drop-out zone. Rockenfeller did a fast lap and took third place from Scheider who dropped down the order rapidly as others also clocked faster times. Spengler also fought back and improved his time with a lap of 1m18.499s which was good for fifth place. Albuquerque, Scheider, Priaulx, Hand, Robert Wickens (Mercedes Team Mucke Motorsport) and also surprisingly Vietoris, did not make it into Q3.
Not much action at the start of Q3, drivers remained in the garage and waited until it was time for what would be their sole run. Surprise of the day was again Tambay who was ninth fastest in Q2 and like the others also played the cat-and-mouse waiting game, it seemed no one wanted to go on track first.
Four minutes to go and finally Rockenfeller and Green emerged from the pit lane for the all-decisive run for the final pole shoot-out. Spengler was the last one to venture onto the track to join the others. It was all or nothing, and only one chance to squeeze out a fast lap.
Just one minute to go, and Farfus, Rockenfeller, Paffett and Mortara occupied the top four places. Rockenfeller went back into the pits apparently confident enough to have made it into the final shoot-out. Spengler was also fast and took third place from Paffett, who in his turn pushed Mortara out of the top four. When the chequered flag was waved Mortara, Green, Tomczyk, Ekstrom, Molina and Tambay were eliminated and they will start from fifth to tenth place of the grid tomorrow.
Final shoot-out for pole
Thus Farfus, Rockenfeller, Spengler and Paffett were the four remaining drivers, Farfus and Spengler for BMW of course being the surprise of the day.
Paffett was the first driver to set his fast lap, it is always difficult to drive the perfect lap but the Briton had a flawless first sector, he did lose some time in the second sector and his time to beat was 1m18.820s.
Next was Spengler in his black BMW, he was slightly slower in the first sector, 0,021s faster in the second sector, and his end time was 1m18.777s after a near flawless lap.
Rockenfeller made a mistake in sector one and was already 0.257s slower than the rest, he again made a small mistake in the third sector and the German set an end time of 1m19.206s. Spengler now had scored the fastest time so far which meant pole would certainly go to BMW.
Farfus was next, could the Brazilian give BMW its first pole position or would it be Spengler? Farfus tried hard but it was not enough; his time was 1m18.815s, just 0.038s slower. Pole position was for Spengler who gave BMW its maiden DTM pole position -- and that just one race into the season; a great achievement to say the least.
Driver quotes to follow ....