Tom Kristensen wants to postpone title decision
The penultimate DTM round promises to be another race full of suspense: in the first event of the most popular international touring car series staged at Le Mans (France) this Sunday two of the three candidates for the title, Audi factory driver Tom Kristensen and Bruno Spengler, will be starting the race from the front row of the grid. Front runner and favourite for the title Bernd Schneider on the other hand merely took grid position nine in the qualifying. If the race were to produce the same result, the decision in the fight for the title would not come about until the finale at Hockenheim.
Thousands of spectators lining the Circuit Bugatti on Saturday witnessed a true qualifying thriller in which Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen in the Siemens Audi A4 DTM of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline was running in front almost up to the end of the session. Only at the very last moment the Dane was bumped from the pole position by Bruno Spengler by a mere 32 thousandths of a second.
A strong performance was also shown by Audi Sport Team Phoenix making it into the top eight for the first time with both cars. Christian Abt in the Playboy A4 as the best driver of a car from last year claimed fifth place. Team-mate Pierre Kaffer in the Castrol Audi A4 DTM will start from position seven. Martin Tomczyk was another Audi driver to qualify for the final section of the three-part “shoot-out qualifying for the top positions on the grid.
Mattias Ekström exact to one thousandths of a second set the same time as Bernd Schneider and will be starting from tenth position alongside the favourite for the title. Altogether, five Audi A4 DTM cars will be starting the race from the first five rows.
The quickest driver of a 2004-spec car was the Swede Thed Björk who will be starting from 16th place in his DTM début.
The race is scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m. local time on Sunday. ARD will start to broadcast live coverage from Le Mans on “Das Erste from 1:45 p.m.
Quotes after qualifying
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “Today we witnessed an incredibly exciting qualifying. In the end, 32 thousandths of a second were lacking but thats the thrill of the DTM. Tom (Kristensen) has established a good base to start from for himself. Perhaps well be able to keep the suspense in the Championship. Our 2005-spec cars, as well, showed a strong performance, particularly Christian (Abt), who was running at the front of the field throughout the weekend.
Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Siemens Audi A4 DTM #7
2nd place, 1m 31.348s / 1m 30.632s / 1m 30.518s
“No doubt: Im very happy to have exploited the cars potential to the max and to be starting from the front row. Of course it was a shame that Bruno Spengler bumped me from the pole position at the very last moment. Overall, its great being back at Le Mans even though its only the Bugatti Circuit and compared with June Im missing 25,000 Danes keeping their fingers crossed for me
Audi Sport Team Phoenix, Playboy Audi A4 DTM #12
5th place, 1m 31.385s / 1m 31.038s / 1m 31.089s
“Yesterday we were out in the middle of nowhere, spent a long time discussing things and hardly knew what to do. Then, we sat down, worked everything out meticulously and now it was perfect. I think our set-up for the race is even much better than for the qualifying.
Audi Sport Team Phoenix, Castrol Audi A4 DTM #14
7th place, 1m 31.456s / 1m 31.180s / 1m 31.376s
“A superb qualifying! Im very pleased about the result for the team, which has managed to get both cars into the top eight. In free practice I still had a few damper problems. Bernd Schneider did not make it into the top eight. That makes me happy for Tom (Kristensen). Maybe we can even help him a bit more.
Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #4
8th place, 1m 31.482s / 1m 30.990s / 1m 31.483s
“Technical difficulties yesterday almost prevented me from using the entire test day. Fortunately, this morning we sorted everything and quickly found a good set-up. Under these circumstances Im satisfied with my position and Im already looking forward to the race tomorrow.
Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Red Bull Audi A4 DTM #5
10th place, 1m 30.668s / 1m 31.209s
“In the first session I was doing well. But then the balance wasnt all that good anymore. When things get tight you cant afford not to be perfect. And we werent perfect today but tomorrow everything will be alright
Audi Sport Team Rosberg, Gebrauchtwagen plus Audi A4 DTM #16
11th place, 1m 31.385s / 1m 31.221s
“Basically, I was satisfied with my car because we continuously improved it. The laps seemed to be good, only on one of them I hit a bit of dirt, but that wasnt a dramatic mistake. The result, though, does not reflect the position wed been hoping for.
Audi Sport Team Rosberg, S line Audi A4 DTM #15
12th place, 1m 31.380s / 1m 31.221s
“Im not completely satisfied. In the first session we were pretty good. In the second the grip wasnt the same anymore. The tyres just didnt have the same grip as in the first session and I didnt adapt to this very quickly.
Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Audi A4 DTM #6
14th place, 1m 31.500s / 1m 32.043s
“As early as in the first qualifying session I noticed the engine was misfiring. The crew changed everything. But when I went out again the problem was still there and even worse than before. Suddenly third gear didnt work anymore either. A weird qualifying, but such things happen.
Futurecom TME, Futurecom Audi A4 DTM #19
16th place, 1m 32.006s
“This was my first qualifying in a DTM car. Considering this, I think I managed a pretty good showing. We need to try and improve grip on the rear wheels and adjust the car a bit more to my style of driving. But Im sure itll be an interesting race.
Futurecom TME, Original Zubehör Audi A4 DTM #20
20th place, 1m 32.812s
“My lap times are getting better from one day to the other, even though Im not quick enough. Every time I improve, the others make more strides as well. At least were heading in the right direction.
Hans-Jürgen Abt (Team Director Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline): “That was really a nail-biting qualifying. Congratulations to Tom. Coming second with a 32-thousandths-of-a-second gap is nothing to be ashamed of. Were looking forward to the race.
Ernst Moser (Team Director Audi Sport Team Phoenix): “Finally, things were going the way I like it today: Christian (Abt) and Pierre (Kaffer) were in great shape, we sent them out at exactly the right moment and now both of our cars are in the top eight. I wouldnt mind if things always went this way.
Arno Zensen (Team Director Audi Sport Team Rosberg): “Im disappointed because I thought wed be able to put both cars into the top eight. Unfortunately, none of our drivers made it into the group of the front runners. Now we need to find out why this was the case.
The starting grid at Le Mans
1 Bruno Spengler (Mercedes), 1m 30.486s
2 Tom Kristensen (Siemens Audi A4 DTM), 1m 30.518s
3 Mika Häkkinen (Mercedes), 1m 30.853s
4 Jamie Green (Mercedes), 1m 31.062s
5 Christian Abt (Playboy Audi A4 DTM), 1m 31.089s
6 Alexandros Margaritis (Mercedes), 1m 31.324s
7 Pierre Kaffer (Castrol Audi A4 DTM), 1m 31.376s
8 Martin Tomczyk (Red Bull Audi A4 DTM), 1m 31.483s
9 Bernd Schneider (Mercedes), 1m 31.209s
10 Mattias Ekström (Red Bull Audi A4 DTM), 1m 31.209s
11 Timo Scheider (Gebrauchtwagen:plus Audi A4 DTM), 1m 31.221s
12 Frank Stippler (S line Audi A4 DTM), 1m 31.357s
13 Daniel la Rosa (Mercedes), 1m 31.497s
14 Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Audi A4 DTM), 1m 32.043s
15 Stefan Mücke (Mercedes) 1m 31.569s
16 Thed Björk (Futurecom Audi A4 DTM), 1m 32.006s
17 Jean Alesi (Mercedes), 1m 32.046s
18 Susie Stoddart (Mercedes), 1m 32.311s
19 Mathias Lauda (Mercedes), 1m 32.436s
20 Vanina Ickx (Original Zubehör Audi A4 DTM), 1m 32.812s