As per last year at the famed “Green Hell,” the drivers, teams and fans were treated to glorious sunshine in the Eifel region, as qualifying got underway at the famed Nurburgring for the 7th race of the 10 stop calendar this season. The history of the DTM’s racing antics have seen legendary battler Klaus Ludwig win here an impressive 12 times, whilst fighting against the likes of “Mr. DTM,” 5-time champion Bernd Schneider, with a new generation of current racers looking to make their mark on the record books.
This afternoon’s battle for qualifying over the 3.693km began under brilliant sunshine, with track temperatures hitting just under 40 degrees, as the 22 drivers tried to exercise their racing muscles in the fight for pole position. The master of the ‘Ring in qualifying was BMW’s Brazilian wonder, Augusto Farfus, followed by fellow stablemate Marco Wittmann and Audi Sport’s Miguel Molina rounding out the top three ahead out a good qualifying performance again from Edoardo Mortara, as the battle was close and hard fought by all 22 drivers.
Q1 got underway, with a lot of the drivers, including Rockenfeller, Dirk Werner, Martin Tomczyk and Andy Priaulx trying to make it count early on. But the action was thick and fast, as just less than a second split the entire field, with title contenders Mike Rockenfeller, Christian Vietoris, Bruno Spengler and Gary Paffett making their way into Q2.
Both Team RMG drivers, Priaulx and Tomczyk, were again having more qualifying woes, especially with the 2011 Champion giving his thoughts on what was going wrong: “I mean, I’ve no clue. I just have no clue. The outcome is a lot worse than what everyone in the team expected.”
Other drivers to be eliminated early were Audi Sport’s 2-time champion, Timo Scheider, who suffered some issues during free practice to end up in P18, but hopes that unpredictability aides his progress in the race: “We were struggling this weekend already. We had a technical issue during free practice, which lost us half an hour. We have seen crazy races already this season, so maybe I can be a part of it all.”
He lines up behind Filipe Albuquerque, who topped the free practice session this morning, before suffering another shocking qualifying. Werner and Roberto Merhi were also eliminated early, but who says that racing in the DTM is anything but a procession when it comes to race day.
“Rocky” was disappointed to end up P11, but is optimistic, as it is a home race for both him and Team Phoenix, with any possibility potentially happening tomorrow: “It’s not a good a position, being in P11 in the middle of the field. We were not quick enough today, that’s all there is to say about it. It’s going to be tough tomorrow, but we will see.”
Q2 saw the action heat up on track, as the gaps between lap times dropped, as the battle for the top spot was swapped between Vietoris, Farfus and Molina over its duration, with some of the drivers again struggling for pace on the track, after a limited free practice for all. Ex-F1 driver and Team MTEK driver Timo Glock showed great form in Q1, pushing for P4, but ended up in P13 after a difficult Q2, behind Audi’s Jamie Green. He explained how difficult it was this time around: “We had a car which was totally difficult to drive this morning. We had to change a lot to get it better for today. I’m not totally unhappy, as we are only 2 tenths away from Bruno and Marco.”
The top Mercedes driver of the day was Paffett in P5, ahead of three of his fellow Stuttgart drivers, Daniel Juncadella, Robert Wickens and Vietoris. Mattias Ekstrom was the next best Audi driver ahead of Rockenfeller, but was quick to point out that he has ‘technically’ won a race from P9 before when the DTM was at the Norisring: ”It’s not impossible to win the race from P9, but it’ll be a hard day tomorrow. I would prefer a dry race tomorrow, especially as we are able to look after the option tyres.”
The Swedish driver is ahead of Spengler, who was again disappointed with the lack of form at Team Schnitzer, saying that they would have to try and analyze what went wrong and how they can improve. Joey Hand, along with Adrien Tambay and Pascal Wehrlein could not make it into Q3, but the roll of the dice at free practice seems to be the key to unlocking the best possible results during qualifying. Juncadella continues to impress, having his best qualifying result of his rookie year in P6. Maybe a podium could be on the cards for the 22-year-old?
Q4 saw a close battle with Edoardo Mortara venturing out first, with the now-bearded Molina pipping his stablemate but nearly 2 tenths of a second, before Farfus eclipsed it even further with a 1.23.296. Wittmann may be on the second row for now behind the Brazilian, but having turned into his pit box too early after Q3, there could be a penalty issued as a result.
So 49 laps in what could be either good or bad weather tomorrow will possibly see what may happen, but could Molina be one to upset the part with his new hairy “good luck charm”, or will Farfus storm the castle on his way to another race win? We’ll find out very soon, as the title race reaches the latter stages….