Audi and Mercedes admitted they were surprised by the speed shown by DTM returnee BMW at Hockenheim after Dirk Werner put his M3 third on the grid for the opening round of the season.
BMWs took four of the top 10 grid positions at Hockenheim with Werner the standout performer in third for Schnitzer – six places ahead of his more experienced teammate Bruno Spengler. Andy Priaulx and defending champion Martin Tomczyk were the others in seventh and 10th for the RBM and RMG squads.
Polesitter Mattias Ekstrom, who had brushed off BMW's chances of fighting for victories during the winter, was the first to admit he had been wrong.
"I have to say congratulations to BMW," Ekstrom said. "I was one of the people who said they would not be on the pace at the start, but big respect to them for being competitive.
"Congratulations to Dirk for being so quick, and he could have been on pole. This now raises the bar because if you are not on top form on any weekend, you will be 15th, not first."
Mercedes Motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug said that BMW's achievement is good news for the DTM and that he expects there to be an increasingly close level of competition over the course of the season.
"Some guys already started criticising way back, but you played it very well so congratulations. On the timing list now three manufacturers in the top three. Nobody could have dreamed of this. And it's not a fixed result. After a very tough competition it's a great result for everybody involved. It's important to thank the [German motorsport authority] DMSB and [DTM organiser] ITR and all our guys who have worked so hard.
"This is tremendous, because we could have had a situation with one manufacturer half a second ahead. This is a great yardstick here and it looks like we'll have a great rest of the year."