While Audi were still celebrating on the pit wall, Bruno Spengler popped up to steal pole position from Tom Kristensen for the sixth round of the DTM at the Nurburgring.
The Canadian, who claimed his maiden win last time out at the Norisring, waited until his final lap of the session to post a time of 1min 23.462secs, which was good enough to edge ahead of Le Mans legend Kristensen and send watching Mercedes boss Norbert Haug into raptures in pit lane.
Spengler's fine lap at the wheel of the Daimler-Chrysler-Bank AMG C-Klasse capped a strong session for Mercedes, with all three of the top four driving for the pointed star. Behind Kristensen, championship leader Bernd Schneider posted the third quickest time – only 0.093secs away from the front row of the grid – while Jamie Green was fourth, the first time the Briton has failed to qualify on the front row since Istanbul last October when he also started from the second row.
Swede Mattias Ekstrom was the second quickest of the Audi drivers in fifth and shares the third row of the grid with Stefan Mucke, with Christian Abt – who produced a stunning late lap to make it into the final stage of qualifying – and Heinz-Harald Frentzen rounding out the top eight.
Qualifying saw disappointment for two of the other ex-F1 racers in the pack, as both Mika Hakkinen and Jean Alesi failed to make it into the final eight. For Hakkinen, the disappointment was less obvious, as the Finn was able to console himself with the fact that he was the quickest driver not to qualify from the second part of the session, edging out Audi's Martin Tomczyk for ninth place. Alex Margaritis, who had paced the morning free practice session, was unable to replicate his practice form in eleventh, with Daniel la Rosa, Timo Scheider and Pierre Kaffer also falling at the second hurdle.
So what of Alesi? Well the Frenchman fell at the first hurdle for the second time this season – having also failed to make it through the first part of qualifying at Hockenheim during the first round of the season. His Mercedes will start down in 15th place sharing row eight with Frank Stippler.
Nicolas Kiesa, who only had his first run at the wheel of the Futurecom TME Audi on Friday, was 17th, with Mathias Lauda and the two female racers – Susie Stoddart and Vanina Ickx – rounding out the grid.