Mercedes driver Lucas Auer will start the penultimate race of the 2018 season from pole position ahead of Gary Paffett, who crucially out-qualified his main DTM title rivals at the Hockenheimring.

Auer kicked off Mercedes' final weekend in the DTM in perfect fashion after beating title candidate to the top-spot by just over 0.1s around the German Grand Prix venue, with fellow championship contender Rene Rast starting from third.

Rast had set the fourth fastest time behind the leading BMW of Timo Glock, but will move up a position as virtue of Glock's five-place grid penalty.

Championship leader Paul di Resta will go into the opening race of the final weekend of the season with the pressure firmly on his shoulders after failing to match the pace of Paffett and Rast.

Di Resta could only muster a time good enough for eighth during the 20-minute shootout, but, vitally, moves up two positions further up to the grid into sixth following penalties for both Glock and Philipp Eng.

The former F1-driver carries a slender four-point lead ahead of Paffett into the penultimate race of the season, but will have to make his way past Nico Muller and Augusto Farfus to get back on terms with his title rivals.

Reigning champion Rast also has a decent chance of retaining his drivers' crown, 30-points off Di Resta's championship lead.

Robin Frijns, Edoardo Mortara and Joel Eriksson complete the remainder of the top-ten grid order for race one in eighth, ninth and tenth.