At the most spectacular race track on the DTM-calendar, Opel finally broke its 2003 duck when Timo Scheider claimed not only his first pole, but Opel's first of the year with the Astra V8 Coup? after a thrilling Superpole session in the Netherlands.

"Being on pole position with the Opel is a great feeling," began the 24-year-old. "Manuel Reuter was the last driver to do so at Donington in 2002. We have been working hard for it and we have never given up. In testing yesterday, we have seen already that our entire team is strong and that our Astra Coup? is better than ever before. I want to thank my Phoenix-team, they have been doing a great job."

The team performance also gave Opel reason to be delighted, with four more Opel-drivers making it into the top ten, with Alain Menu fifth, Manuel Reuter seventh, Peter Dumbreck eighth and 21-year old Dutch driver Jeroen Bleekemolen ninth.

"I am incredibly proud of my team," said Opel's motorsport director Volker Strycek. "Having five cars in the top ten and claiming pole is the best that could happen to us. Congratulations to Timo, but also to Jeroen, who is showing a strong performance in his first year in DTM. We have started this season with a new structure and today, we could see that it is working better and better."

Mercedes-Benz Motorsport-director Norbert Haug was quick to congratulate his Opel counterpart: "A big hand to Volker. Opel has shown today that they have to be reckoned with. It was one of the most exciting qualifying sessions of the DTM, if not the most exciting ever. The race track is great, fast and demanding, and the drivers have shown great sport at this track."

Meanwhile, Abt-Audi-junior driver Martin Tomczyk will start from second on the grid tomorrow and is expecting a tough battle.

"It will be an incredibly tough race tomorrow, with three makes on the first two grid rows and this immensely close competition," said the 21-year-old, who was just 0.005 seconds slower than Scheider.

"Martin has done a great job, because getting second place on the grid with this hard competition is an excellent performance," declared team principal Hans-J?rgen Abt.

Local hero Christijan Albers was the best-placed driver of an AMG-Mercedes CLK in third place.

"Today, it was a hard job for us as Mercedes-Benz-drivers," Albers said. "We have tried everything on the set-up, but it was really difficult. From that point of view, I am really satisfied with my grid position and my lap time."

Last year's winner Mattias Ekstr?m (Abt-Audi) occupied fourth position. The first four, all of them in between 21 and 24 years old, were separated by just 18 thousandths of a second! "Last year, I have won the race after starting from fourth place, so I just would like to repeat that," he said.

At the 4.3 kilometres long track, three great names missed out on the single-lap qualifying of the ten fastest drivers, the 'Super-Pole': former F1-star Jean Alesi will only be starting from 11th place tomorrow, points leader Bernd Schneider is down in 13th and reigning champion Laurent Aiello 14th.

"The worst qualifying result of my DTM career. I don't know what happened, we first have to analyse the data," sighed Alesi.

"My second set of tyres was better than my first one, but with my short off I lost too much time and aborted the lap," offered Schneider. "On my third run the yellow flags after Gary Paffett's spin prevented me from qualifying for Super Pole."

Champion Laurent Aiello wasn't satisfied either, but he is also confident before the race: "At Zandvoort, anything can happen, because this is one of this old, real race tracks where you have great opportunities for overtaking," he enthused.

The ninth and penultimate round of the 2003 DTM will be broadcast live on ZDF from 13.45 h, the start of the race is at 14.00.

 

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