Audi defeated Mercedes in the battle for honours in the first official practice session of the 2008 DTM campaign at Hockenheim this weekend, as Oliver Jarvis marked himself out as one to watch by recording the third-quickest time in a year-old car.
The fastest time of the day went to Martin Tomczyk, as Audi thoroughly monopolised the top of the timesheets with its A4 DTM. Indeed, despite foggy and rainy conditions around the Baden-Württemberg circuit, the young German held a handy advantage over his closest competitors at the close of play, as Audi seeks to repeat the one-two it scored in last year's season-opener, when Mattias Ekström led Tomczyk home in a one-two demonstration en route
to his second series crown. This time around, the man from Rosenheim clearly intends to turn the tables.
“I really like the car,” commented an extremely satisfied Tomczyk. “So far, things have been going really well for all of us – we didn't have any problems whatsoever. We shouldn't delude ourselves, though. Mercedes will probably have a few cards up their sleeve for qualifying, but we know where we stand and how fast our car can be. Friday has been a very productive day for us.”
Tin-top rookie Jarvis, meanwhile, turned heads by lapping a stunning third-quickest in the morning session – behind only Tomczyk and testing star Timo Scheider – before winding up sixth overall in the afternoon, despite the limitations of his 2007-spec machinery. The Ingolstadt marque's youngest factory driver – at just 24-years-old – has been strong throughout pre-season testing, and re-affirmed that promised on the opening day, winding up just over half a second adrift of Tomczyk.
“I've had a really good day,” enthused the 2005 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year
award winner, who heads into the first race with less than ten hours' experience behind the wheel of his Audi Sport Team Phoenix car. “It was encouraging to set the third-fastest time in the dry session. Conditions were difficult at times in the wet, but I was still sixth-fastest.
“It's my first visit to Hockenheim – it's a good track and I'm really enjoying it here, despite the weather! Qualifying will be tough, having had so little pre-season testing, but my aim is a top ten starting position.”
For fellow Brit and series newcomer Katherine Legge, meanwhile, practice did not run quite so smoothly, as a problem with the throttle valves on her car in the morning was compounded when a brake caliper needed to be changed in the afternoon.
“Although the first session was dry, grip was very poor,” summarised Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. “Then in the afternoon it started raining and the rain got heavier and heavier.
“Although we managed to do some work on the dry-weather and rain set-up, we didn't really get any substantial information. Now we're consolidating all the data and will try and make the best of it for qualifying.”