Audi's leading drivers and team bosses were surprised by the gap to Mercedes following qualifying for the DTM season-opener at Hockenheim.
Mattias Ekstrom led an Audi lockout of the top five places on Saturday afternoon, with Paul di Resta the only driver of a 2009-spec C-class making it into the top 10.
"That's the biggest surprise of the day," said Ekstrom when asked about Audi's advantage. "I expected this race to be the closest ever, because all of the testing had shown the we were very close.
"I was surprised Gary [Paffett] and Bruno [Spengler] weren't near the front as well, but we shouldn't forget that Paul is very quick, and it is tomorrow that counts."
Ekstrom's team-mate Martin Tomczyk, who will line up third on the grid, added: "We expected harder competition today. It's quite a surprise, we didn't think about this happening."
Audi Sport boss Wolfgang Ullrich agreed with his drivers, but he believes that Mercedes will still be a threat on Sunday.
"We had a rating in mind of where we thought we would be after testing," he said. "We did not expect this, but Mercedes will work hard, so I'm sure it will not just be a race between Audis."