Nordic pairing sets the pace
The free practice session for the DTM round at the Norisring took place in excessive heat, with the temperature reaching about 30°C (air) and 40°C (track) respectively. For the drivers, this free practice session represented the last chance of preparing for the qualifying session and the Super Pole, taking place later in the afternoon. Mattias Ekström turned out to be the most successful when it came to coping with the excessive conditions. The Swede lapped the 2.3-kilometre Norisring in 48.502 seconds, thus setting the fastest lap time, while his brand-mate, Tom Kristensen, followed close behind and secured second position. Behind the Audi pairing, three Mercedes-Benz drivers – Paffett, Spengler and Häkkinen – finished third, fourth and fifth respectively.
RDTM gains pace from session to session, at the Norisring. The fastest lap time Mattias Ekström set in today’s free practice session was more than a tenth of a second faster than Jean Alesi’s 2004 pole lap. Yet, the battle for the fastest laps stays extremely close. At the end of the 60-minute session, the entire DTM field was split by less than seven tenths of a second.
Manuel Reuter, the fastest of the Opel drivers, finished Saturday’s free practice session in sixth position. The top ten were completed by Frank Stippler in a 2004 spec A4, Martin Tomczyk, Marcel Fässler and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Allan McNish, who is going to contest his first Norisring race, just as Mika Häkkinen, gets on better and better. In both Friday test sessions, the Scotsman had had to settle for the last place, but in today’s free practice session, he improved to 14th position.