Paffett on pole – four Mercedes stars shine at Istanbul
Mercedes-Benz dominated the Super-Pole for DTM’s inaugural race at Istanbul. Four Mercedes-Benz drivers secured the top-four positions on the grid for the 32-lap race (170.81 kilometres) on Sunday, with Gary Paffett (DaimlerChrysler Bank AMG-Mercedes) being the pole-sitter. On his way to securing the pole, Paffett, the only challenger of championship leader Mattias Ekström (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) in the battle for the 2005 title, succeeded in outqualifying his brand-mates Bernd Schneider, Bruno Spengler and Jamie Green by lapping the ‘Istanbul Park’ in 1:47.101 minutes. “I’m truly delighted with the result,” said Paffett. “I’m convinced that we are going to experience a thrilling race.”
RChampionship leader Ekström set the fifth fastest time, with the fastest of the Opel drivers, Manuel Reuter, qualifying sixth. Two-time Formula One World Champion Mika Häkkinen will be seventh on the grid for tomorrow’s race, with his AMG-Mercedes C-Class.
Currently, championship leader Ekström has a one-point lead over Paffett. Should Ekström win the Istanbul round with his championship rival failing to score, the Swede would have succeeded in early securing the 2005 DTM title, at Istanbul. Yet, this scenario doesn’t seem to be very probable, as both Ekström and Paffett scored points in each of the nine races contested so far. And in each of the latest five rounds, both even made it to the podium. Since four rounds, the championship lead was swapped from Paffett to Ekström and vice versa race by race, and since the beginning of August, the two championship contenders were never split by more than a point. The race at the 5.338-kilometre circuit located close to Istanbul will start on Sunday at 14.00hrs CET (15.00hrs local time), with the live coverage of the German TV station ARD beginning at 13.45hrs CET.
Gary Paffett (Pole position, DaimlerChrysler Bank AMG-Mercedes): “I realised Bernd Schneider’s lap time and was aware that it would be difficult to outqualify him. Hence, I’m truly satisfied with the result of my lap. For us, the qualifying result is a very good one. Tomorrow, the battle for the title will make for a great race.”
Bernd Schneider: (2nd grid position, Vodafone AMG-Mercedes): “My car was just great. I made a minor mistake in the fourfold left-hander, but the rest of my lap was perfect. Should I have the chance of supporting Gary in tomorrow’s race I will do so – as this means that I will also be battling at the front end of the field.”
Bruno Spengler (3rd grid position, Junge Gebrauchte von Mercedes): “My qualifying result was just incredible and something I hadn’t expected to achieve. In the Super pole, I made two minor mistakes in the first section, yet, I’m happy with third grid position. Istanbul is a great track, offering a lot of challenges. Now I’m looking forward to the race.”
LMattias Ekström (5th grid position, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): “Fifth grid position isn’t optimal. It could have run better but it also could have been worse. Mercedes turned out to be faster, today. My strategy for tomorrow? Quickly pass three cars and chase Gary, afterwards.”
Manuel Reuter (6th grid position, Team OPC): “I lost a lot of time in the third section. Currently we don’t know why yet. Even so, I’m satisfied. The weather on Sunday will be vital regarding the race result. Should it be as warm as it was today, the tyres will turn out to be a key factor.”
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director Norbert Haug: “I can’t remember the last time when we secured the top four positions on the grid. It’s a rare feat to take the first two rows of the grid. This doesn’t mean that we are going to also win the race but quite obviously we will try to do so. Gary Paffett is an extraordinary driver who always works in a very focused and targeted way.”
Audi Motorsport Director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich: “Quite obviously, I’m disappointed. I think this has been our worst qualifying result in the 2005 season so far. We just weren’t fast enough and don’t yet know why. Furthermore, Mercedes-Benz turned out to be extremely competitive – but that’s motor racing. Our set-up should represent a good basis but we still have to work on it to have the chance of making the best use of it, in the race.”
Opel Motorsport Director Volker Strycek: “With two cars in the Super Pole, it was an afternoon with mixed emotions, for me. Quite obviously, we are struggling in the third section, thus losing two to three hundredth of a second. Due to the remarkably small gaps between the cars, such a loss can easily result in a grid position two or three rows further behind. The ‘Istanbul Park’ is an impressive circuit that features an interesting layout. We all have been welcomed very warmly. It has been the right decision hold a DTM race, here.”