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Spengler on pole after Mercedes demonstration

1 January 1901

Bruno Spengler maintained Mercedes' 100 per cent qualifying record this season with pole position in the third round of the DTM at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz following a session utterly dominated by the three-pointed star.

The second time this season Spengler will start from the top spot, it also marks the third pole of the year for the latest generation C-Class, a car that has yet to convert its qualifying pace into strong race speed.

Still, there is a good chance the 2007 model will celebrate a maiden win this weekend after all four HWA-prepared cars qualified inside the top five, not least because the challenge from Audi appears worryingly slight after only Alex Premat managed to get his A4 into the final qualifying session.

Indeed, Mercedes have been the class act throughout practice and this was displayed throughout qualifying when C-Class' locked out the top five in all three knockout stages, Audi appearing to struggle on a circuit that has often favoured their rivals in the past.

Their cause was badly hit in the first qualifying session when five of their armada were knocked out, only Susie Stoddart managing to spare the Ingolstadt marque's from a total washout in 17th.

The early results had in fact hinted at a major upset in the loss of Mika Hakkinen, but the Finn hooked a lap together to move comfortably into the next session, in doing so helping contribute to pushing Oschersleben sparring partner Mike Rockenfeller out of the running, the German nowhere near the front-row winning pace he enjoyed two weeks ago.

He will start 15th, ahead of Rosberg team-mate Lucas Luhr, Stoddart, Christian Abt and DTM returnee Markus Winkelhock, while Vanina Ickx once again brings up the rear.

With five already out, Audi pinned their hopes of the remaining half of their line-up to take the fight to Mercedes, but they would instead see another four of their cars fail to make it through to the top-eight shootout.

These included three of the works Abt-prepared A4s of Mattias Ekstrom, Timo Scheider and Martin Tomczyk, the former tipped out at the last moment by a strong lap from Alexandros Margaritis. They will line-up ninth, tenth and eleventh, ahead of the other Audi of Adam Carroll, who at least had the satisfaction of out-qualifying Oschersleben winner Gary Paffett, while Mathias Lauda also failed to make the cut in 14th.

With the final session proving to be a Mercedes vs Premat battle, the Frenchman managing a Herculean effort to merely qualify for the final stage in his first race back since his horror smash at Hockenheim, it was always likely to be an in-house battle for pole position between those driving C-Class saloons.

Having seen Bernd Schneider and Paul di Resta set the pace in the first two sessions, it was the turn of Spengler to surge to the top when it mattered, the Canadian immediately lowering the benchmark to 1min 18.408secs on his first lap, a marker that would never be bettered.

As such, Spengler will start at the front in his DaimlerChrysler Bank Mercedes with Mika Hakkinen starting alongside him after managing a time just over a tenth slower than his team-mate.

di Resta continued to stun onlookers with third position on the grid, the Scot not letting the mere fact he is driving a two-year old Mercedes prevent him from mixing it with newer machinery. Indeed, he will be in the midst of the Mercedes battle too having slotted in ahead of Bernd Schneider and Jamie Green.

Premat at least managed to keep two Mercedes behind him in sixth on a day when Audi will hope their qualifying performance will not transfer to the race, while Margaritis and Daniel La Rosa rounded out the top eight in their year-old machinery.


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