Opel rescues a point from chaotic A1-Ring race Alain Menu added another point to Opel's DTM championship tally at the A1-Ring in Austria, but it could have been so much better for the marque if the cards had fallen its way when the race was...
Opel rescues a point from chaotic A1-Ring race
Alain Menu added another point to Opel's DTM championship tally at the A1-Ring in Austria, but it could have been so much better for the marque if the cards had fallen its way when the race was thrown into chaos on the very last lap.
Opel cars were revelling in the conditions due to a brief rain shower, and three of its cars, running nose-to-tail, were closing in on the leaders on the last lap when the Mercedes of Bernd Schneider and the Abt-Audi of Mattias Ekstrom touched in front of them. Ekstrom spun broadside across the track, causing all three Opels to spin off on to the grass which ruined their chances of what could have been a podium finish. Schneider, who was just ahead of them at the time, finished second despite going off the track at the final corner.
The race was hailed as one of the most sensational in the DTM's action-packed history, and the final stages saw some terrific action, with cars running three abreast around the A1-Ring's testing corners. Unfortunately for Opel, their cars lost out in all the last lap action in front of 34.000 spectators as well as Carl-Peter Forster, Chairman and Managing Director, Adam Opel AG, and Alain Uyttenhoven (Member of the Board, Brand Director) and Dr Uhland Burkart (Member of the Board, Manager for Sales and Service).
"We could easily have finished in the top three," said Menu, who lost many vital seconds as he recovered from the spin. "In the dry we were keeping pace with the leaders, and when it rained we were closing in very fast. Then there was a collision between the cars ahead and what happened after that, I'm not too sure. The end result was that we all spun."
"Looking at it from a positive point of view, our performance in the race showed what we could do. It would have been even better if we had qualified further up the grid," he added.
Opel's motorsport boss Volker Strycek was also disappointed with the outcome, given that his cars which finished sixth, seventh and eighth could have been much higher up the finishing order but for being caught up in someone else's accident.
"It was an outstanding race, but unfortunately not much came of it for us," he said. "Sixth place was not representative of where we should have been. We should have been on the podium with at least one car, so it's a real pity for our team. I'm very disappointed."
Manuel Reuter (Opel Team Phoenix) and Timo Scheider (Opel Team Holzer), who were all involved in the mass spin, followed sixth-placed Alain Menu (Opel Euroteam) across the finish line. Reuter had been delayed by a bad start, which lost him many places, but he battled his way back through the pack to rejoin his other fellow leading Opel drivers.
To prove Opel's pace in Sunday's event, Reuter's fastest lap was quicker than most of the leaders, some three tenths faster than race winner Marcel Fassler of Mercedes and virtually identical to Bernd Schneider, Jean Alesi und Laurent Aiello.
Former Formula 1 driver JJ Lehto finished an excellent 10th on his return to the Opel squad, for whom he drive in the mid-'90s, a great result given his lack of familiarity with the V8-powered Astra Coupe. His fellow F1 sparring partner of past times, Michael Bartels, recovered from a problem in the qualification race to 15th place in the main event.
Joachim Winkelhock's day was spoiled when he suffered a gear lever problem, which needed fixing in the pits. He lost a lap and finished 19th, but he had earlier finished in the top 10 in the qualification race.