Mika Hakkinen and Martin Tomczyk set the pace in practice for the fourth round of the DTM as the championship reached British shores for its annual trip Brands Hatch.
Two long hour and half a sessions were intended to reveal the front runners of the weekend, but with honours even between Mercedes and Audi and conditions varying from the morning to the afternoon, qualifying is set to be the more accurate indicator.
Even so, Hakkinen emerged with the fastest lap of the day, although his mileage was restricted by a spin at Druids shortly after setting his best time, the EuroSpeedway Lausitz winner beaching his car and bringing out the red flag.
Nonetheless, the Finn did enough to top the morning session, edging out surprise package Adam Carroll, the Futurecom TME driver emerging as the fastest of the five Brits that will start this weekend, despite his 2005-spec Audi.
Timo Scheider and Alex Premat previewed Audi's strength around the tight Indy circuit with third and fourth fastest times, ahead of Mercedes works drivers Jamie Green and Bruno Spengler. Lucas Luhr showed well in the morning in eighth, while Brits Gary Paffett and Paul di Resta rounded out the top ten, although with just eight tenths covering the whole field, it was always likely to set-up a very close weekend.
In a rather warmer afternoon session, Tomczyk, who had been down in 17th in the first session, surged to the top of the timesheets, albeit two tenths off Hakkinen's best from the morning.
He was followed on the timesheets by Luhr, the German marking himself out as a potentially surprise contender this weekend as he seeks his first points of the season. di Resta this time proved best of British in third, with reigning champion Bernd Schneider fourth. Carroll showed well again in fifth, ahead of Germans Daniel La Rosa and Scheider.
However, with less than a second separating Tomczyk in first and Vanina Ickx in 20th, the knockout qualifying session has all the makings of a thriller…