Timo Scheider is bidding to maintain Audi's impressive pole-sitting run in the opening round of the 2008 DTM campaign at Hockenheim this weekend, as he aims to significantly improve on his highest championship finish of the seventh place he achieved last year.
Though still only 29-years-old, the German has been a series stalwart since the year 2000, only sitting out the 2005 campaign as he focused on FIA GT racing instead. Though he has yet to break his DTM duck, Scheider is keen to alter that statistic in 2008, and he has begun in the best possible way by pacing the final pre-season test at Oschersleben, after being promoted to a current-spec Audi A4 fielded by Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline this year.
“It's nice that the winter's over and we can concentrate on the essential part – driving races,” he enthused, as he prepares to make his 17th start at the scene of his maiden rostrum finish in the DTM this time last year. “It's also nice that Hockenheim is the first race, as we finished there last year with such a positive result.
“That's why I'm going to Hockenheim with a very good feeling. Immediately afterwards, the race at Oschersleben is on the agenda – it's an action-packed programme.”
Audi currently holds a five-race unbroken run of pole positions in the leading pan-European tin-top series, with rival Mercedes not having been allowed a look-in since the Norisring back in June. Those top spots have been shared out between Scheider, Martin Tomczyk, defending champion Mattias Ekström – both of whom, like Scheider, are beginning their eighth season in the DTM in 2008 – and Tom Kristensen, who holds the lap record at Hockenheim from the time he set there in qualifying last October. What's more, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline has begun from pole around the Baden-Württemberg circuit once every year since 2002.
“Finally, the season is starting,” exhorted Kristensen, runner-up in the series back in 2006 and now aiming to put a frustrating 2007 behind him, after his challenge was quite literally KO'd on the very first lap of the opening race last year. “It's very difficult to make any predictions at this stage. We want to give our best in order to win, but only after the first race and possibly at Oschersleben – my 'DTM home' circuit because it's closest to Denmark – will we know where we stand exactly.
“The opening races are very important because, before them, the cards will not be put on the table. Only then will we be able to judge what kind of a job we did during the winter.”
“I'm starting with high expectations,” added Tomczyk, who fought for the crown last year only to slip back to third in the final reckoning. “The season is now coming up quickly, and immediately there are two weekends back-to-back.
“If things go well, we can score really good points twice in a row – this will be my goal. That's why I'm happy that the first two races – Hockenheim and Oschersleben – are at circuits where I've previously had pretty good experiences.”