The World Champion is back – Häkkinen on pole, at Spa
Only two DTM races contested but already on the top: two-time Formula One World Champion Mika Häkkinen proves extraordinary skills by his securing his maiden DTM pole, at Spa.
LOnce again, the skies over the Ardennes opened their gates and the qualifying for the DTM round at Spa took place in torrential rain. Behind the wheel of his AMG-Mercedes C-Class, Mika Häkkinen proved to be a true rain expert and lapped the in 2:32.729 minutes to take pole position. Reigning DTM Champion Mattias Ekström (Audi) was 0.563 seconds slower than Häkkinen and will share the first row on the grid for tomorrow’s race (14:00hrs, live at the ARD from 13:45hrs) with the ‘Flying Finn’.
RAudi’s Christian Abt succeeded in setting the third fastest lap time at the 6.976-kilometre Ardennes rollercoaster that features the world-famous bend ‘Eau Rouge’. In the Super Pole, where the ten fastest drivers of the qualifying session go out one by one to contest one flying lap, Opel’s Marcel Fässler clinched fourth place, while his team-mate, Lauren Aiello, finished seventh, thus completing Opel’s best qualifying result in the 2005 season so far. Nevertheless, the Opel squad was disappointed. The Super Pole was red flagged due to an accident Audi driver Tom Kristensen suffered on his in-lap, therefore, Fässler and Aiello had to abort their efforts to secure the pole. Quite obviously, the Opel drivers were allowed a second chance, but this time, Aiello lost a lot off time when sliding off track.
Pierre Kaffer finished fifth in his 2004 spec Audi A 4 DTM, while Jean Alesi, the winner of the season opener and second in the championship, had his off-track moment on the wet track – just like his Mercedes-Benz brand-mate Jamie Green. On the grid for tomorrow’s race, Alesi and Green will be eighth and ninth respectively.
The winner of the previous DTM round held at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz, Gary Paffett, made it to the Super Pole but couldn’t contest the session due to the damages his car had suffered in an accident in the qualifying session. Therefore, the championship leader will be on the fifth row of the grid for tomorrow’s 23-lap race.
Mika Häkkinen (pole position, Sport Edition AMG-Mercedes): “My Super pole lap was just fantastic. I’m absolutely delighted – not only for me but for the entire team, as they are the ones who enabled me to feel comfortable in DTM, that quickly. And that’s what you need to deliver in fine style.”
Mattias Ekström (2nd grid position, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): “I’m happy with my performance. It’s okay for my Spa debut. I lost some time in the last turn as there was some gravel on the track. Nevertheless, that’s no excuse for having been five tenths of a second slower than the pole-sitter.”
Christian Abt (3rd grid position, Audi Sport Team Joest Racing): „The weather conditions made for a difficult Super Pole, but everybody had to cope with these conditions. At the end of the day, I’m really happy with my performance.”
Marcel Fässler (4th grid position, Opel): “I suffered a puncture on my first Super Pole lap, therefore, the red flags were perfect, for me. On the second lap, I was hampered by a brake balance problem and lost a lot of time while braking into the corners.”
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director Norbert Haug: „A stunning performance of Mika Häkkinen who was partially driving beyond the limit. At the same time, it’s a pity for Opel who possibly were hampered by worse conditions. Yet, Mika has truly deserved his pole position.“
Audi Motorsport Director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich: “In both qualifying and Super-Pole, the drivers have displayed car control on the highest level. Congratulations to Mika Häkkinen. At the same time, we are sorry that Opel’s Laurent Aiello was hampered by Tom Kristensen, when just contesting his flying lap.”
Opel-Motorsport Director Volker Strycek: “Quite obviously I’m slightly sad, as our lap times set in the free practice session proved that a first-row grid position was possible. We had some bad luck with Kristensen as Laurent was on the way to set a really fast lap time.”