Danish Dynamite: Kristensen takes Norisring pole
The Dane gathers momentum. Following his pole for the last DTM round, at Oschersleben, Audi A4 DTM driver Kristensen proved once again be the DTM benchmark, in the qualifying and the Super Pole sessions of the Norisring weekend. “The gap is truly tiny,” said the pole-sitter, delighted with his pole for the sixth DTM round. “This is a result I didn’t expect.” At the end of the day, the record breaking seven-time Le Mans winner’s 0:48.446-minute pole lap on the 2.3-kilometre street circuit was just nine thousandths of a second faster than the one second placed Gary Paffett set with his AMG-Mercedes C-Class. At the same time, the crowds celebrated young Canadian Bruno Spengler. The 21-year old caused a stir by setting a 0:48.469-minute lap to secure third grid position, with his 2004 spec C-Class. “It feels just great to have qualified ahead of Formula One Champion Mika Häkkinen and being tapped on the shoulder, by him,” beamed Spengler.
RIn fantastic conditions, the crowds on the packed grandstands witnessed a thrilling and extremely close qualifying session. At the end of the day, the top eleven were split by just five hundredths of a second. Again and again, the lap times were improved and the order changed continuously. And the Super Pole turned out to be just as thrilling. Behind the top three, last year’s pole-sitter, Jean Alesi, took fourth place, while reigning DTM Champion Mattias Ekström will be fifth on the grid for the race on Sunday (17:38hrs CET, covered live by the ARD).
Ekström will share the third row with Manuel Reuter, the fastest Opel driver, who qualified sixth in his Vectra GTS V8. Mercedes-Benz driver Mika Häkkinen, who is going to contest his maiden Norisring race, Switzerland’s Opel driver Marcel Fässler as well as Jamie Green and DTM Record Champion Bernd Schneider with their AMG-Mercedes C-Classes complete the top ten. Former Formula One ace Heinz-Harald Frentzen missed the top ten by just 33 thousandths of a second and will start the 72-lap race from eleventh position on the grid.
Tom Kristensen (Pole position, Audi Sport Team Abt): “I’m truly delighted with my pole position, as the gap was extremely tiny. I didn’t expect to secure the pole, here. The Norisring is very narrow, therefore, you have to opt for an incredibly exact style of driving.”
Gary Paffett (2nd grid position, DaimlerChrysler Bank AMG-Mercedes): “It’s always disappointing when you’ve failed to secure the pole position. And it’s even more annoying when it has been that close. But the car was running great. Never before has it been that close and I expect a really tough battle. This race will be extremely demanding for both man and machine.”
Bruno Spengler: (3rd grid position, Junge Gebrauchte von Mercedes): “I never expected to qualify third. I was already thrilled to have made it to the Super Pole. It feels just great to have qualified ahead of Formula One World Champion Mika Häkkinen – and even more when he comes to congratulate you. Tomorrow I want to make a good start and I hope to be able to score some points.”
LManuel Reuter (6th grid position, Team OPC): “We are happy with our third row position. We succeeded in repeating our good practice results in the Super Pole. I’m happy with the performance and look forward to the race.”
Audi Motorsport Director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich: “This was motor racing at its best. A session just can’t be more thrilling than today’s Super Pole. I have to admit that our team performance wasn’t that good, however, we succeeded in securing some good grid positions. At the end of the day, I’m satisfied with what we have achieved. The Norisring is a true driver track. Yet, we will try to defend our lead in the overall rankings.”
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director Norbert Haug: “Bruno Spengler is the surprise of the weekend. To qualify third with a 2004 spec car is an extraordinary achievement. I think that’s just great and proves the DTM concept to be right. It underlines that you can also be successful with a 2004 spec car. The brands are extremely close together and the spectators may look forward to a thrilling race.”
Opel Motorsport Director Volker Strycek: “The fastest split time we set in the first section hasn’t been beaten. During the course of the session, the track got faster and faster. Our tests in race conditions ran fine and I expect a similar performance in the race, tomorrow. But it’s always extremely difficult at the Norisring to make it to the finish line and have a trouble-free race.”