DTM: Scheider takes surprise pole for Audi at Zandvoort
By Berthold Bouman
Round seven of the German DTM Championship takes place at the Dutch sea-side Zandvoort circuit, literally just a few hundred metres of dunes separate the track from the sea. The 4.307km long track is very popular with the Mercedes, Audi and BMW drivers, but contrary to last season, drivers only had a few days to prepare for the race on Dutch soil after last weekend’s race at a blazing hot German Nurburgring.
Rain had already hit the circuit this morning during the second free practice session, and qualifying this afternoon was also hampered by rain. A wet and slippery track was awaiting 22 drivers at the start of the first qualifying session, all were on slicks to set their first timed lap. After five minutes three Audi drivers occupied the top-three places, Mattias Ekstrom (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline) was fastest with a time of 1m33.684s, he was followed by Mike Rockenfeller (Audi Sport Team Phoenix Racing) and Timo Scheider (Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline).
A number of drivers, including Bruno Spengler (BMW Team Schnitzer), Martin Tomczyk (BMW Team RMG) and Gary Paffett (Mercedes Team HWA), took a huge risk and stayed in the garage to save tyres. With just five minutes left, Spengler took fourth place, Paffett surprised friend and foe and took first place with a time of 1m33.001s, but not much later Tomczyk took first place from him with a lap of 1m32.928s.
The circuit was clearly drying out, and the times quickly improved lap after lap, and Spengler and his BMW team made a major mistake by staying in, and thus the Canadian surprisingly did not make it into the second qualifying session.
Obviously, Spengler was disappointed, “We took a gamble today and assumed my time would be good enough to progress. However, the track then dried out far quicker than expected and the rest of the field moved above me. Obviously I am disappointed, but these things happen. I must now try to pick my way through the field from the back in tomorrow’s race.”
Also Joey Hand (BMW Team RMG), Susie Wolff (Mercedes Team Persson Motorsport), Augusto Farfus (BMW Team RBM), Rahel Frey (Audi Sport Team Abt) and David Coulthard (Mercedes Team Mucke Motorsport) did not make into the next qualifying session.
Tomczyk, Rockenfeller, Paffett and Green were out first in the second session, and the rest soon followed as it started to rain again. Initially Rockenfeller was fastest, while Green and Christian Vietoris (Mercedes Team HWA) were second and third.
The second session soon became a lottery, Paffett became the main victim as he slid down the order to tenth place, while Green was fourth. Drivers were still on the slicks and Adrien Tambay (Audi Sport Team Abt) was leading the pack, but Scheider, with only one minute to go, took over first place from the Frenchman.
The track became more and more slippery, and Paffett was 13th and had to go out to improve his position, he did so and finished in eighth place. Another surprise, as it was this time current DTM Champion Tomczyk who didn’t make it into the next qualifying session, neither did Robert Wickens (Mercedes Team Mucke Motorsport), Miguel Molina (Audi Sport Team Phoenix Racing), Robert Merhi (Mercedes Team Persson Motorsport), Ralf Schumacher (Mercedes Team HWA) and Andy Priaulx (BMW Team RBM).
But the weather changed once more, it was dry again at the start of the third session, and it was Rockenfeller who set the first timed lap of 1m31.355s. With just four minutes left, Green and Paffett finally left the garage for their one and only run in the third qualifying session.
Scheider was just one-thousandth of a second faster than Rockenfeller and took over his first place, while at the same time Green ran wide and had to abort his fast lap. Surprisingly, Paffett wasn’t very fast either, he was seventh with just 50 seconds to go. Both Britons had one more lap to go before the chequered flag, Green improved his time and finished in sixth place, while Paffett couldn’t improve his time and had to settle for eighth place.
Audi now had four cars in the shoot-out for pole position: Scheider, Rockenfeller, Ekstrom and Filipe Albuquerque (Audi Sport Team Rosberg). The latter was the first to record his final qualifying lap, he made no mistakes and set a time of 1m32.936s, not really a fast time, the Portuguese driver complained about massive understeer.
Ekstrom was next but in the first section he was just 0.001s faster, in the second section he was 0.029s faster, but crossed the finish line 0.158s slower than Albuquerque, and the Swede reported over the radio he had no grip. But Rockenfeller had no problems at all, he put together a flawless lap and took first place with a time of 1m32.615s.
All Scheider could do was to drive at the very limit, he was 0.065s faster in the first section, 0.270s in the second and took pole position with a time of 1m32.365s. Audi has six cars in the top ten at Zandvoort, unfortunately non of them are in position to pose a threat to current championship leader Paffett.
A relieved Scheider commented, “A big load has come off my chest. The past few weeks were hard for me and my surroundings. When you ask yourself if there’s something that you may be doing wrong and you’re trying to put simply everything on track it’s very difficult. Sometimes you’re heading in the right and sometimes in the wrong direction. Today, thanks to the team spirit and thanks to the people who believed in me, simply everything worked out. Clinching the fourth pole position at Zandvoort was a very good feeling and was very important.”
A very disappointing day for Spengler, he will start the race from 18th position on the grid tomorrow, while Green will start from sixth place, and Paffett still has a chance to win the race and extend his championship lead as he will start from eighth place.
Paffett hasn’t given up yet, “Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to progress through to Q4, but I’m satisfied considering the circumstances. Sadly, I was unable to utilise the car’s full potential over a complete lap. Our C-Coupé is normally very strong in the race, and, given Sunday’s weather forecast, all things should be possible.”
Paffett is currently leading the DTM Championship with 103 points, followed by Spengler with 83 points, and Green is third with 81 points. An important race tomorrow, as Spengler or Green could take over the lead from Paffett, and with the rain forecasted for tomorrow, anything is possible.