The final qualifying session of the 2013 DTM championship at the legendary 4.574km Hockenheim circuit would still have major importance for the team and manufacturer titles that are still up grabs, even though Audi Sport’s Mike Rockenfeller had sown up the drivers’ title three weeks ago at Circuit Park Zandvoort.
It was another dominant performance from BMW Motorsport, as the outgoing champion, Bruno Spengler, led the way in a very tight qualifying session. He led a Team Schnitzer front row lock out, after his German teammate, Dirk Werner also got through and was 0.303 seconds behind the BMW BANK M3 DTM driver.
A refreshed and revitalized Andy Priaulx, fresh from his tenth place finish in the XBOX ONE Forza Motorsport Holden Commodore alongside DTM alumni Mattias Ekström at Bathurst last weekend, showed impressive driving that put him into the final 1-lap shootout, ending up third in front of Timo Glock. The Team MTEK driver’s shootout lap was disallowed, due to exceeding track limits at Turn 1, but it was the first time since Audi’s Q4 sweep at Zandvoort last year that a sole manufacturer has swept the board for the final lap shoot out.
A pretty good start to possibly make the perfect way to help give the current M3 DTM a welcome sendoff, as that car makes way for the new beast to arrive in the Munich team’s arsenal, the M4 DTM, which will make its debut as soon as it is possible. Leading the charge from Audi Sport was Spain’s Miguel Molina, whose Spanish flag sported the star that was synonymous with the late Maria de Villota, as he pushed hard to get in the fight to reach Q4, but missed out by just 0.012 seconds.
Audi has its sights set on the clean sweep of titles that Jens Marquardt’s drivers secured last year, as well as Team Phoenix leading the team title fight by a handful of points, with Molina really enjoying his moment in the spotlight: “A nice moment for me. Being the best-placed Audi driver in the final qualifying session of the year is great. Today, I got the maximum out of the car and I didn’t make any mistakes. Tomorrow, we will battle for the manufacturers’ and teams’ title.”
Mercedes-Benz had another woeful qualifying session, as Canadian driver, Robert Wickens was the highest placed, as none of the Stuttgart six made it as far as the top ten. He is placed in P13 for tomorrow’s finale, but explained how tight the race for pole position always is: “The DTM is a tough series. Unfortunately, I made a little mistake in Q2 and to make it beyond the second qualifying heat in the DTM, you need a perfect lap. I didn’t manage to get that, but anything can happen tomorrow.”
Gary Paffett also had a qualifying to forget, placing sixteenth for the race, as the 2005 Champion has said that he has had his fair share of highs and lows at Hockenheim. He admitted to Verena Wriedt during the live YouTube broadcast that the other two manufacturers have been able to improve during qualifying in the second half of the season, whereas the Stuttgart outfit has not really had an answer for the lack of performance.
BMW’s Joey Hand found himself at the tail end of the grid, having had a great showing last time out, especially as he admitted to theCheckeredFlag.co.uk at Brands Hatch earlier in the year that it can go one way or the other. Roberto Merhi’s bad qualifying adventures for 2013 has come to its conclusion, as the Spaniard places ahead of the American, with Christian Vietoris and Jamie Green also not getting through to Q2.
Rookie Mercedes drivers, Pascal Wehrlein and Daniel Juncadella have also had struggles in qualifying this season, but showed early promise in May at the season opener, placing 15th and 17th respectively, with Team Rosberg’s Filipe Albuquerque and Edoardo Mortara also having a lack of performance in 14th and 18th, bringing to home the results that they would have not wanted in the final race of the year.
Timo Scheider, who secured pole position at the opener in Hockenheim in May was unable to repeat the efforts then, placing in 12th behind Martin Tomczyk in 11th, Augusto Farfus in P10, and ninth place man Rockenfeller, who was not overwhelmed by his qualifying for the final race of the season.
Marco Wittmann, who has been a revelation this year, having scored a second place finish at the Red Bull Ring and pole position at Zandvoort this season along the way also managed to get into the top ten, placing in sixth place ahead of Ekström, as well as France’s Adrien Tambay, who continues his great run of form, having secured his fourth successive points finish last time out, and looks to do the same again this weekend.
Spengler was excited about the end result, securing his 16th DTM career pole position, and was glad that a turnaround of good fortune came to him: “In the last few races, I often had bad luck. Being on pole is simply so much fun. I am happy for the guys in my team who are working very hard. Moreover, we want to defend the manufacturers’ title.”
So it’s nine races down, one to go, as the DTM season will finally conclude after 44 laps tomorrow afternoon, as the titles will be wrapped up, as well as the momentum going into the long winter period will be a good way to end the season on a high. The lights will go out for one last time in 2013…