Timo Scheider took pole position for the opening round of the 2013 DTM after going fastest on a drying track at Hockenheim.
The two-time champion had gone second-fastest in the third part of qualifying in his Abt Sportsline Audi RS5, and so was the third driver to set his time in the single-lap Q4.
His 1m35.918s lap knocked Augusto Farfus off the top spot with just Christian Vietoris left to complete his lap.
But HWA Mercedes driver Vietoris dropped time in the opening sector of the lap and wound up third quickest.
Scheider's 11th career pole came by 0.116 seconds from Farfus's RBM BMW.
Robert Wickens was a career-best fourth in the second of the HWA cars. His Q4 time was disallowed for exceeding track limits, but it made no difference to his grid position.
Vietoris had topped a sensational Q3 that featured an ever-changing order at the top of the timesheets, largely due to all 10 drivers switching from wet tyres to slicks within the opening minutes.
With track conditions improving dramatically and times falling by over five seconds by the end of the session, the name on top of the timesheets changed six times in the final minute alone.
The impressive Pascal Wehrlein put his RSC Mucke Mercedes fastest, but had already been knocked back to fifth - and first of the drivers not to make Q4 - by the time he had got halfway round the next lap.
He will start eighth on his DTM debut, behind former title winners Mattias Ekstrom and Gary Paffett and reigning champion Bruno Spengler.
RBM BMW man Joey Hand and rookie Daniel Juncadella (RSC Mucke) impressively completed the top 10.
Former champion Martin Tomczyk and new Audi recruit Jamie Green were among the big names knocked out in Q2, a late flyer from Juncadella eliminating both in a similar manner to the way in which he put Andy Priaulx out at the end of the previous session.
Formula 1 refugee Timo Glock was also eliminated in Q2, the MTEK BMW driver securing 15th spot on the grid for his DTM debut.
Roberto Merhi crashed entering the stadium in the opening minutes of qualifying and was one of the six drivers that failed to make Q2.
Debutant Marco Wittmann was another, his MTEK BMW grinding to a halt at the entrance to the Mercedes Arena.
PPos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Timo Scheider Abt Audi 1m35.918s 2. Augusto Farfus RBM BMW 1m36.034s + 0.116s 3. Christian Vietoris HWA Mercedes 1m36.194s + 0.276s 4. Robert Wickens HWA Mercedes 5. Mattias Ekstrom Abt Audi 1m40.005s Q3 6. Gary Paffett HWA Mercedes 1m40.496s Q3 7. Bruno Spengler Schnitzer BMW 1m41.184s Q3 8. Pascal Wehrlein Mucke Mercedes 1m41.337s Q3 9. Joey Hand RBM BMW 1m41.637s Q3 10. Daniel Juncadella Mucke Mercedes 1m43.775s Q3 11. Martin Tomczyk RMG BMW 1m48.947s Q2 12. Jamie Green Abt Audi 1m49.129s Q2 13. Adrien Tambay Abt Audi 1m49.136s Q2 14. Mike Rockenfeller Phoenix Audi 1m49.366s Q2 15. Timo Glock MTEK BMW 1m49.842s Q2 16. Filipe Albuquerque Rosberg Audi 1m50.296s Q2 17. Andy Priaulx RMG BMW 1m50.190s Q1 18. Miguel Molina Phoenix Audi 1m50.399s Q1 19. Edoardo Mortara Rosberg Audi 1m50.416s Q1 20. Roberto Merhi HWA Mercedes 1m50.810s Q1 21. Marco Wittmann MTEK BMW 1m50.871s Q1 22. Dirk Werner Schnitzer BMW 1m50.926s Q1