Hakkinen grabs Brands pole
1 January 1901
Mika Hakkinen grabbed his second DTM pole position of the season after an exciting qualifying session at Brands Hatch saw the early advantage shift from Audi to Mercedes.
Audi had been the class act in practice prior to qualifying, seemingly suggesting they would be well placed to secure a much needed first pole position of the season. As it happens, Hakkinen instead delivered Mercedes their fourth pole of the year to maintain the 100 per cent qualifying success of the 2007-specification C-Class.
He will be joined on the front row by team-mate Bruno Spengler to reinforce Mercedes form, while Alex Premat will lead Audi's charge from third.
Indeed, even the early stages of qualifying seemed to suggest that Mercedes would have to concede to Audi's strength around the Kent circuit today, the manufacturer seeing four of their cars included in the first six that were eliminated.
With the session always expected to provide thrills and spills around the tight Indy circuit, competition was remarkably close throughout the field, making timing crucial so as not to occur any traffic.
That seemingly caught out championship leader Paul di Resta, who was the highest profile casualty of the first session when his hopes of impressing the home crowd ended early in 15th position, agonisingly less than a hundredth away from safety. He was joined by fellow Brits Adam Carroll and Susie Stoddart, a result that was particularly disappointing for Carroll after he had targeted a top ten starting position having starred in the each of the practice sessions so far.
They will start 16th and 18th respectively, with Alex Margaritis, Daniel La Rosa and Vanina Ickx also joining them on the sidelines early in 17th, 19th and 20th positions.
However, having seen most of their cars survive the first knockout session, it was time for Audi to suffer in the second, with four of their A4's failing to make the cut.
Another close session that made the margin of error very slight, the crucial order around the top eight continually changed before the final order was eventually established at the end of the ten minutes.
Indeed, strong late laps for Bernd Schneider, Jamie Green and Christian Abt were enough to end the top eight dream for Markus Winkelhock, the German hooking up an impressive lap to defy his disappointing performance in practice, but not quite doing enough to make the shootout.
It was a similar story for Lucas Luhr, who had hinted at a possible challenge for pole position having set a strong pace in practice but had to settle for a somewhat disappointing 11th, one position behind Mathias Lauda, who will make only his second top ten start in tenth. Timo Scheider was another surprise loss down in 12th, while Gary Paffett and Mike Rockenfeller also found themselves out of the running.
Into the final stage of qualifying, most notably all 2007-specification models – barring Scheider and Winkelhock – made the top eight, with only Premat and Abt's 06 Audi usurping the natural order. That meant honours were even between Mercedes and Audi into the final session, giving no clue to the identity of the pole man.
Nonetheless, Hakkinen did a good job of revealing that answer early on with a lap of 42.660secs to go fastest with five minutes to run. However, he was immediately demoted to second when Jamie Green crossed the start-finish line almost a tenth quicker.
However, sadly for Green that lap was scrapped after it was judged to have been set under a red flag, deployed when Martin Tomczyk crashed at Druids. It therefore promoted Hakkinen back into provisional pole position, a status that became a definite pole position at the end of the session when the drivers were unable to improve their times.
As such, Hakkinen matched his feat from Oschersleben to score pole position, the Finn leading Spengler on the front row of the grid, the Canadian maintaining his record of qualifying inside the top three for each race.
Premat was the surprise Audi front runner in third, the Frenchman proving he is settling into touring cars with ease in a session that also proved very successful for his Team Phoenix squad, Premat's team-mate Christian Abt qualifying an impressive fifth. They will be split by Mattias Ekstrom in fourth.
Sixth and seventh were filled by Bernd Schneider and Green, the Brit unable to find the same speed that would have taken him to pole position had Tomczyk not had his mishap. The German meanwhile will start eighth.