It was a complete reverse of fortune this time around, as five Audi A5 DTMs secured the top five places during qualifying, whilst their rivals struggled. Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline’s Timo Scheider secured his first Pole of 2012, as well as it means that the two-time DTM champion does so for the tenth time in his career, with Mike Rockenfeller, Filipe Albuquerque, Edoardo Mortara and Mattias Ekström completing the line up for Audi. Scheider has endured a very difficult season, one of his worst starts to date, but the perseverance from himself and his team had finally paid off: “I have always kept faith in myself and I am particularly happy having claimed the fourth pole in total at my absolutely favourite track.”
After the clean sweep at the front of the grid by Audi, Mercedes-Benz was first represented by Jamie Green, who secured 6th place on the grid, who was followed by Dirk Werner, staking his claim as being the fastest BMW for the first time this season. Series leader Gary Paffett was unable to make it into Q3, but starts from 8th place. The Briton is quite optimistic of how things could play into his hands on race day, even though Audi have shown great strength: “The track seems to suit Audi very much, and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use the full potential on a complete lap. Normally, our C-Coupé is very strong in the race and considering the weather forecast for Sunday, everything should be possible in the race.”
Mercedes Junior Team driver Christian Vietoris and Audi’s French rookie Adrien Tambay rounded out the top ten, after a very interesting qualifying. Bruno Spengler’s title hopes suffered a massive blow, having come into this weekend just 20 points behind Paffett, after a monumental win last time out at the Nurburgring. An early gamble did not pay off, as the 30-year-old, along with fellow BMW works driver Augusto Farfus, unexpectedly read the conditions wrong, with the track drying out quicker than a lot of drivers expected. Spengler reflected on the misfortune suffered during Qualifying: “We took a gamble today and assumed my time would be good enough to progress. However, the track then dried out far quicker than expected and the rest of the field moved above me. Obviously I am disappointed, but these things happen. I must now try to pick my way through the field from the back in tomorrow’s race.”
Defending champion Martin Tomczyk nearly ended up in the top ten, and even though he felt that the M3 DTM was nearly perfect, but couldn’t really fathom why the session didn’t go to plan: “My car felt good and, from my point of view, my flying lap was almost perfect. Despite that it was still not quite enough. We must now analyze carefully exactly where we lost the time, in order to make up places in the race. It is not over yet. Let’s see what is possible tomorrow.”
Andy Priaulx and Joey Hand qualified 16th and 17th for tomorrow’s race, with the Guernsey driver pretty happy with all the laps he completed, but was still very focused on extracting more out the vehicle in time for the race. Hand, however, was finding things difficult, as he has been enduring what you could only class as a baptism of fire this year, and we may see that this will put his skills to the test until next season comes along with a new outlook.
So in this new era for DTM, with the new regulations making the racing tightly packed for all concerned, it was the first time a single manufacturer has been able to secure the top 5 places on the grid after Qualifying, as well as Audi’s new A5 DTM being the latest-generation vehicle to secure three pole positions. Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport, elaborated further on the continuing improvements from Ingolstadt, which came together at the start of last weekend at the Nürburgring, and looks set to continue: “With three cars in the top four last weekend at the Nürburgring, we showed that we’ve made a significant step forward.
We continued to work and reaped the fruits here in qualifying. Of course it’s fantastic to have five cars at the front. But the important thing is the race tomorrow: that’s when we want to look good. I’m particularly happy today for Timo, who’s gone through some hard times and impressively came back today.”
So after a 21-month drought for Scheider, who dedicated his Pole Position to his father, who celebrates his birthday today, it looks as if there is another twist in the tale of this year’s championship, which could carry on surprising us all over the coming months, as the Zandvoort circuit may help to swing the balance of power in the DTM once again.