It was the first time since the race at Moscow Raceway last year that we saw outgoing champion Mike Rockenfeller on pole position, but he pipped this year’ champion Marco Wittmann by just 0.026 seconds.
However, it could have been questionable, as to whether the Team Phoenix driver would have even been able to compete this weekend. Last year’s drivers’ champion was bedridden in the days leading up to the penultimate race of the year with a severe gastrointestinal infection, but with the help of the Audi Sport team doctors, he got back to the business at hand.
Last year saw “Rocky” take the title by securing second in the race behind Augusto Farfus, and is very much aware the the fight to secure the manufacturers’ crown is going to be a difficult one come tomorrow: “It was very close today and that’ll be the case again tomorrow in the race. I believe that Marco is super-fast here. Of course we’re going to try and counter that with all we’ve got. But we’re starting from the better position. I hope that’ll be the small but crucial advantage for winning the race.”
Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich was clear in stating the fact that qualifying is “just half the battle” after Rockenfeller’s well-timed effort to get pole position. Ingolstadt has not yet secured a win this season, and getting the upper hand on BMW ahead of the season finale at Hockenheim: “Now it’s about everybody fully concentrating on their task and doing a perfect job. Then we’ve got a chance of clinching our long overdue first season victory in the DTM and the lead in the manufacturers’ championship.”
Head of DTM Dieter Gass is looking forward to what could be one of the most action-packed races of the year so far, especially with how close qualifying actually was: “This was a superb performance today. Four Audi cars in the top five, one on pole – and, what’s more, it’s one we didn’t necessarily expect to be there before the weekend. When Mike arrived here he wasn’t in the best of health. But today he really made believers out of everybody, delivered a top performance and put the RS 5 DTM on the pole position.”
12 points separate Audi and BMW in the hunt for the manufacturers’ title, with the former looking to be on the return to form that could see them deny Munich’s possible clean sweep for the second time in three years. But tomorrow’s race amongst the dunes could show which way the tide has turned…