Tom Kristensen emerged on top at the end of a fraught and entertaining DTM qualifying session in Barcelona for the eighth round of ten on the calendar – and now, the man who will hang up his helmet in the pan-European touring car series at season's end is seeking to add a second victory to his 2009 tally on race day.
Indeed, right up until the final stages of the shoot-out qualifying session around the Circuit de Catalunya, the positions at the head of the leaderboard were changing literally by the second, before 'Mr Le Mans' prevailed over his fellow front-running rivals Paul di Resta, Martin Tomczyk and Bruno Spengler to secure the top spot.
The result marks the ninth pole of Kristensen's successful DTM career – and being well out of contention for the drivers' crown with just 13 points to his name from the opening seven races, the Dane is clearly eager to put an end to a winless streak that stretches all the way back to the curtain-raising meeting at Hockenheim in May.
“Today, the car became better and better and my engineer has found exactly the right set-up,” remarked the 42-year-old. “Everything was just spot-on. As a driver, you always concentrate on how the car handles and you try to optimise this. I am very happy about this pole position.”
di Resta, for his part, was satisfied to be four grid spots ahead of championship leader Timo Scheider – albeit just an agonising six hundredths of a second shy of pole.
“That was a real close qualifying,” reported the Mercedes-Benz star. “In the final session I made a slight error, but all-in-all I am very happy with my performance. We had good pace and can now be optimistic for the race.”
The drivers in-between Scheider and di Resta in the title standings – Mattias Ekström and Gary Paffett – line up respectively seventh and fifth, sandwiching the points leader and putting the Scot in arguably the perfect position from which to gain ground around a track where this time last year he defeated eventual champion Scheider for victory.
The best-placed driver of a year-old car was Frenchman Alex Prémat, who qualified eighth for Audi, whilst Spengler's fourth place remains under investigation after his Mercedes broke down on-track on the cooling-down lap following the fourth and final heat.
To see the qualifying times in full, click here