As if victory last time out at Oschersleben and a handy championship lead were on their own not enough, Timo Scheider has gone another step towards stamping his authority firmly on the DTM in 2008 - by storming to his third successive pole position on the series' first foreign trip of the campaign in Mugello.

The young German - who prior to this year had never stood atop the podium in the pan-European tin-top series in seven full seasons in the category, despite taking a brace of pole positions - has been promoted to the factory Audi squad for 2008, and he is certainly making the most of it. On a beautiful Italian day, the 29-year-old blew rivals Jamie Green, Tom Kristensen, Mattias Ekstr?m, Paul di Resta, Bruno Spengler and Bernd Schneider comfortably out of the water, and now he is looking to make it two wins out of two as well.

"This is just unbelievable - being on pole position for the third time in a row is something I just didn't expect," a visibly overwhelmed Scheider enthused, proof positive of the fact that all good things really do come in threes. "Actually, my goal was a place on the first two rows. That it was enough for pole is just great. The team has given me a perfect car that allowed me to make it into first place on the grid; now it is up to me to turn this result into a race win."

Green, Kristensen, defending champion Ekstr?m, di Resta, Spengler and Schneider were all blanketed by less then two tenths of a second at the close of a fraught and thrilling qualifying session, with the latter duo even setting identical lap times to each other in sixth and seventh - though all were more than three tenths away from Scheider's stunning last-gasp effort.

"I am very happy with my performance in qualifying," stated Green. "I set the right time at the right time. Compared to the first two qualifyings, we have improved significantly and for Sunday, we are in a good position."

"For me, it is mixed feelings," confessed Kristensen. "On the one hand, I am disappointed - pole position would have been nice. On the other hand, I am happy with third place on the grid. We knew beforehand that it would be difficult here, but you only really know where you are in qualifying."

The result also marked the eighth consecutive top spot for Audi in qualifying - stretching all the way back, somewhat appropriately, to Mugello last year - and with six A4s inside the top ten, it was undeniably another good day for the Ingolstadt marque. Markus Winkelhock did an impressive job to grab eighth spot - the only driver in 2007-spec machinery to get through to the final knock-out session - but there was less happy news for second-placed man in the championship Martin Tomczyk, who will be starting all the way down in twelfth place.

"Qualifying was very hard," reflected Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. "Mercedes-Benz has done a great job and come closer. We knew it would be difficult here with 20 kilograms of handicap weight, so I am all-the-more happy with pole position. Surely, tomorrow's race will be very difficult.

"We had very good long runs and now only have to adapt the set-up to the changed temperatures. Timo Scheider got it all together 100 per cent in all the sectors of his final lap. Apparently, together with his engineer, he has found exactly that little difference in tyre pressure that counts. The entire team has done a tremendous job - thanks very much indeed."

That Mercedes has closed the gap - as Dr Ullrich remarked - is clear to see, with the three-pointed star gaining its best grid position of the season to-date with Green alongside Scheider on the front row, and the other three 2008 AMG machines all inside the top seven too. Ever-improving Formula 1 refugee Ralf Schumacher, meanwhile, ended up 13th, but former champion Gary Paffett was left frustrated down in a lowly 15th place.

"Qualifying was very exciting and surely entertaining for the spectators," mused Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug. "We have four cars in the top seven - that is a very strong team performance. Congratulations to Timo Scheider for pole position. Today, we were in the same league as Audi, but not with him. That was a great performance; the lap time impressed me.

"The times of the following six cars are remarkably close, especially with this track being so long. Now we have to wait [to see] what tomorrow's race will bring. It will not be easy. We have made some very big steps already - many thanks to the team for that - however we are still in the process of catching up. The long runs were promising and we have shown that we are still there. Victory tomorrow would be nice, but we could very well live with a podium finish too."

To see the qualifying times in full, click here