Ferrari on pole in Saturday qualifying, Porsche lagging behind

Ferrari cheers in the Netherlands: Jack Aitken secured his place in qualifying for the first DTM race in Zandvoort (today from 1:30 p.m. live on ProSieben) this weekend, including the three championship points for pole position. For the 28-year-old, it is the third pole in the traditional series and the second in 2024.

In dry conditions on the North Sea coast, the drivers fought a typically close battle for the best possible starting position. In the final minutes of the 20-minute session, which started five minutes late, the lap times tumbled in the usual manner, with Aitken ultimately winning with a lap time of 1:31.762 minutes – a new track record for a DTM GT3 sports car in Zandvoort.

McLaren surprises with first row in Zandvoort

In the classification, Aitken had a remarkable lead of 0.374 seconds by DTM standards over surprise man Clemens Schmid, who achieved second place, the best placing to date for newcomer Dörr-McLaren. “It’s a bit cooler this morning. That helps the car get into the right working window. I had a lot of grip, it’s great and I got the lap together,” said pole-setter Aitken happily at the ProSieben microphone.

Arjun Maini (HRT-Mercedes) and Ricardo Feller (Abt-Audi) lined up behind Schmid on the second row. Both the Mercedes and Audi GT3 cars had to undergo changes to the Balance of Performance overnight. While the Mercedes-AMG GT3 was able to unload ten kilograms, the Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo 2 and the GT3 Lamborghini had to add 15 kilograms.

Lucas Auer completed the top 5 in Winward-Mercedes. Behind them were Sheldon van der Linde and Rene Rast, two significantly improved drivers from Schubert Motorsport with more boost for the BMW M4 GT3 after a disappointing qualifying for Sunday’s race yesterday.

Unusual schedule in Zandvoort

The reason for the unusual schedule at the third event of the 2024 season: Six of the 20 DTM drivers have to make an interim trip to Le Mans from Saturday to Sunday in order to take part in the official test for the 24-hour race (June 15-16) on Sunday morning. They will then return to Zandvoort by private plane.

To ensure that the drivers in double duty – BMW works drivers Marco Wittmann, Rene Rast and Sheldon van der Linde, as well as Lamborghini works driver Mirko Bortolotti, Kelvin van der Linde because of his Lexus program in the WEC and Cadillac driver Jack Aitken – do not miss the qualifying on Sunday morning, the timed practice for the Sunday race (start at 4:30 p.m.) was brought forward to Friday evening.

Maximilian Paul in the Lamborghini
Sunday pole setter Maximilian Paul opted for an alternative qualifying strategy, photo: ADAC

Van der Linde and Paul rely on alternative strategy

Saturday’s pole setter Maximilian Paul (Paul-Lamborghini) was finally able to secure ninth place in the time trial for today’s race, directly behind Nicki Thiim in the SSR-Lamborghini. This meant that six brands were in the top eight. Paul and Kelvin van der Linde opted for an alternative strategy in qualifying. While the remaining 18 drivers waited in the pits for around ten minutes as usual to bring their Pirelli tires into the working window using the brake temperature, Paul and van der Linde were already doing their fast laps early on.

Van der Linde completed several push laps in a row, with the South African breaking the record for a DTM GT3 sports car in Zandvoort, set by Maro Engel last year, with a lap time of 1:32.467 minutes. However, this record did not last long: Paul did not complete several competitive laps, but continuously improved his lap times and beat van der Linde by 0.123 seconds on his decisive lap.

Ultimately, the alternative qualifying strategy did not prove to be profitable, as it did on Friday. While Paul managed to save P9, van der Linde could only manage 13th place. The top 10 was completed behind Paul by Luca Stolz in the second HRT Mercedes. The first ten drivers were within just 0.595 seconds. The narrow gap between P2 and P10 is particularly striking. Here the drivers were separated by just 0.221 seconds!

Bankruptcy for Manthey-Porsche and Marco Wittmann

The current runner-up Mirko Bortolotti, however, missed the top 10 in eleventh place. Saturday’s qualifying in Zandvoort was also a disappointment for the only Porsche team, Manthey EMA. Defending champion Thomas Preining, the best-placed Porsche driver, could only secure 14th place, with teammate Ayhancan Güven following in 16th place.

“It’s hard to explain,” said a disappointed Preining. “It was a clean session. We were able to play to our strengths, but we were far behind.” Qualifying didn’t go as hoped for the third Schuber-BMW driver, Marco Wittmann, either. Unlike his teammates, the two-time DTM champion’s performance deteriorated compared to yesterday and will only start the fifth race of the season from 17th place.

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