Timo Scheider was in ebullient mood at the end of qualifying for the opening race of the 2008 DTM season at Hockenheim this weekend, after Audi proved their advantage over rivals Mercedes in pre-season testing had been no false dawn.
The four Audi Sport Team Abt cars have been on top form since the word 'go' around the Baden-Württemberg circuit – home to the German Grand Prix – and seemingly hold the upper hand over Mercedes come rain or shine. In qualifying Scheider and team-mate Mattias Ekström were the only drivers to dip below the 1m33s barrier as they line up alongside each other on the front row of the grid, and both are clearly in confident spirits for the race.
“Sensational!” enthused series veteran Scheider after taking the third top spot in qualifying of his DTM career, though the German has yet to seal his debut victory. “A perfect lap, a perfect car, a perfect day. We were strong from the very first practice session onwards – straight from my first lap I had a very good feeling.
“We changed almost none of the settings on the car after the first practice session; that's unusual for a race weekend. Normally we do a lot more mechanical work, but here very minor changes resulted in a perfect balance. That's why we're on pole.
“It was a breathtaking qualifying. In fact, my third pole came as a little bit of a surprise to me. I owe quite a lot to my mechanics and I want to thank Audi and the Abt squad as they have provided me with an excellent car.”
“I am very happy with second place,” added defending series champion Ekström, “and I am impressed to see the new Audi A4 DTM working so well. I feel really comfortable in it. Before the season, I already had a good feeling and expected the car to be good, however it is even better than I had expected.
“Qualifying is qualifying and the race is the race, but I'm convinced we are well-prepared. We did a good long run during the test, managed a strong qualifying performance and I'm on the front row. Our chances for the race on Sunday are good.”
Bruno Spengler was the highest-placed of the three-pointed star's nine drivers at the end of the session, albeit almost four tenths of a second shy of Scheider's quickest effort. The 2007 championship runner-up, however, insisted Mercedes should not be written off in the race.
“[It was] a tough fight,” the Canadian admitted. “This time, it wasn't enough for pole position. Of course, I am a little bit disappointed. I had a problem with oversteer in the first sector, but with my best time in the second sector I made it up.