DTM aspirant Maximilian Gotz proved once again that he is one of motorsport's most underrated talents by taking a comfortable pole position for the Blancpain Endurance Series finale at the Nurburgring.
Gotz steered the HTP Motorsport Mercedes SLS around in the second segment of qualifying to go seven tenths clear. In the final segment, the Esta Motorsports Ferrari of Alessandro Pierguidi was fastest but was still half a second adrift of Gotz.
The pole winner and Mercedes talisman Bernd Schneider are playing a back-up role to Maximilian Buhk in the German youngster's bid to claim the title. Buhk drove in the final segment, but was foiled by traffic and dirty track conditions.
"It was a clear lap, which was the main thing," said Gotz. "To get that was good luck, and I just had to put my sectors together.
"I drive together with Maxi [Buhk] in ADAC GT Masters so we are always concentrating on winning together. It was planned for him to do the fastest lap, but the conditions were not good."
Pierguidi, in the Ferrari he shares with Matteo Bobbi and Alexander Skryabin, just edged out the ART Grand Prix McLaren of Andy Soucek for the other front-row spot.
Ex-World Touring Car Championship racer Kirill Ladygin topped the Pro-Am class in taking fourth overall, while the sister SMP Racing Ferrari was the third Russian-backed 458 in the top five with Mikhail Aleshin at the wheel.
The Mercedes' polewinning form very much puts Buhk in the driving seat for the title, despite the fact that he only joined the series for the third round at Paul Ricard.
Victory in the Spa 24 Hours left him just two points adrift of the Kessel Racing Ferrari trio, Daniel Zampieri, Cesar Ramos and Davide Rigon.
Kessel's day got off to a miserable start when Ramos crashed heavily in the free practice session, causing the car to miss pre-qualifying. The repaired car ended qualifying 15th.
Of the other major title contenders, the Marc VDS BMW qualified sixth in the hands of Yelmer Buurman, while the Frank Stippler/Christopher Mies WRT Audi, in which Rene Rast set the best time, will start seventh.
The RJN Nissan team drew first blood in the fight for the Pro-Am title, with Jann Mardenborough bouncing back from his Formula 3 crash to go second in class, 10th overall, as he seeks to help Alex Buncombe win the crown.
The rival AF Corse Ferrari, where Fabio Babini replaces the cup-tied Andrea Bertolini (who is racing in the Asian Le Mans Series this weekend) alongside Niek Hommerson and Louis Machiels, will line up 26th overall.
Other Britons in the overall top 10 include the Gulf McLaren trio of Rob Bell, Adam Carroll and Tim Mullen in eighth place, and JRM Nissan men Peter Dumbreck and Steven Kane, joined this weekend by Kazuki Hoshino, in ninth.