Ekström secures Hockenheim pole
The 2005 DTM season has kicked off, and once again the young guns succeeded in setting the pace. In the first qualifying of the season, reigning champion Mattias Ekström secured the pole position for tomorrow’s race (14:00hrs) by completing a fabulous lap. Behind the wheel of his Audi A4 DTM, the Swede lapped the 4.574-kilometre Hockenheimring in 1:35.251 minutes, with last year’s runner-up, Gary Paffett (AMG-Mercedes C-Class), being just 32 hundreds of a second slower than the Swede, thus qualifying for the second first-row grid position.
Thanks to a remarkable Super Pole performance, Mercedes-Benz driver and DTM rookie Jamie Green finished third, while Marcel Fässler – the best Opel driver – secured fourth position. The following places were gained by Mercedes-Benz drivers Jean Alesi and Bruno Spengler, followed by Martin Tomczyk in the Audi A4 DTM. 2003 DTM Champion Bernd Schneider had to settle for eighth place, with Tom Kristensen and Stefan Mücke finishing ninth and tenth respectively.
The former Formula One aces, Allan McNish (Audi), Mika Häkkinen (Mercedes-Benz) – DTM’s new idol of the public – and Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Opel) didn’t make it to the Super Pole and will be 14th, 15th and 19th respectively on the grid for tomorrow’s race.
The first round of the 2005 DTM season will start tomorrow at 14:00hrs, with German TV station ARD beginning its live coverage at 13:45hrs.
Mattias Ekström (pole position, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): “I was really confident during my lap. I hoped to have set an even better time, but the track was getting slower. Our wish to secure a good result has been fulfilled. It’s like a dream to have clinched pole position for the season opener. I’m relieved.
Gary Paffett (2nd grid position, Daimler-Chrysler Bank AMG-Mercedes): “Our performance was really good, today. I succeeded in improving continuously, since yesterday. Unfortunately I made two minor mistakes on my fast lap, otherwise pole position might have been possible. Now I’m confident for the race.”
Jamie Green (3rd grid position, Salzgitter AMG-Mercedes): “For me, third position on the grid is like a bonus. My lap was only solid, and there are still a lot of things I have to learn. But it was big fun.”
Marcel Fässler (4th grid position, Opel): “We’ve made a major performance leap, compared to yesterday, although we made do with minor set-up changes. But these details helped us to close the gap. I’m delighted to have gained my best qualifying result as Opel driver.”
Audi Motorsport Director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich: “The Super Pole was thrilling up to its very last minute. Mattias Ekström performed a great lap without making the slightest mistake. We are very happy with his pole position. Altogether, this has been a good and thrilling start into the new season.”
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director Norbert Haug: “The first ten cars turned out to be extremely competitive. In the closing stages of the Super pole, the track was getting slower. Therefore, the best drivers of the qualifying sessions struggled when trying to make it to the front end of the grid. This Saturday has been a promising prelude for the 2005 season.”
Opel Motorsport Director Volker Strycek: “Marcel Fässler has delivered in fine style. Nevertheless, I’m not happy as I had expected a better result. Our car is more competitive.”