First big DTM test makes ultimate excitement probable -- lags are at a minimum Brand new DTM cars, DTM novices and routiniers are at the steering wheel, and from the very first to the very last round, they have a distance in time of only ...
First big DTM test makes ultimate excitement probable -- lags are at a minimum
Brand new DTM cars, DTM novices and routiniers are at the steering wheel, and from the very first to the very last round, they have a distance in time of only hundredths of a second -- a situation throwing a light spot on DTM, revealing that the coming 2004 season could hardly be more promising. Tension and dramatic races are guaranteed by full starter fields: This is the conclusion of the first common tests of Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Opel on the 4.182 km race track in Estoril, Portugal (near Lissabon) between 15th and 18th March 2004.
On the first day, Manuel Reuter drove on top in an Opel Vectra GTS V8. On the second day, it was new Opel star Heinz-Harald Frentzen who led. And on the third day, vice champion Christijan Albers drove minimum time in a Mercedes-Benz C-Class. On the last evening of the last day of testing, finally, DTM novice Tom Kristensen drove best time of all teams and days in an Audi A4 DTM, thereby providing DTM with a successful upbeat for Audi's factory side engagement.
Dane Tom Kristensen, who had three times been Le Mans winner in Audi sports cars, was more than happy: "After all these years in a sports car, I had completely forgotten that time distances could be that small. Of course I am glad about my minimum time, because it makes me certain that I will be in the leading field. But our precise position we will not know before Hockenheim." Apart from that, Kristensen accounts: "These were very successful days in Estoril. The Audi A4 DTM showed no technical difficulties whatsoever, the team worked perfect, and we were able to unreel our test programme just as it was planned."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Formula 1 Vice World Champion of 1997. Frentzen arrived on Monday evening, sat down in his new Opel Vectra GTS V8 on Tuesday -- and yet after the first session, he was on a top position, which he defended both the rest of the day and next day's late morning. It took until Wednesday evening that Albers ousted him to second rank.
"For me, it is also great to get to know my new DTM colleagues here," says Frentzen. "I am quite satisfied with my results. My test programme ran as it was to, while the track was dry and thus perfect. The Vectra responds very well to any changes, and we were able to work consistently on the car's setup." Among other categories, Frentzen tested track specific aspects, thereby preparing himself for the second race of the season in Estoril on May 2nd.
In 2003, vice champion Christijan Albers fought for the champion's crown even in the very last race of the season. Now in Estoril, again he showed that he is top-class. On the third day, Albers drove first best time for Mercedes and the new C-Class. He thereby undercut Frentzens previous all test best time by nearly two hundredths of a second, which means worlds in DTM.
"The first test went very well. The new C-Class runs as reliable as a Swiss clockwork. This makes me very satisfied," says 24 year old young Dutch Albers. "And also, after the winter break, it's good to work with the team again." In spite of that, last year's "young wilde" Albers refrained from prognoses of any kind: "Making forecasts at such an early point of time is very difficult. We will know our position after Hockenheim." After the testing days, Albers' brand colleague Jean Alesi, who came from Formula 1 just like Frentzen, is certain that "this year, competition will be even harder."
Just following the big DTM presentation at Hamburg's historic market square on March 30th, including driving specials around the Inner Alster Lake, more common DTM tests are on the schedule in Bruenn (CZ) from 1st to 4th April. And from 16th to 18th April, the 2004 season opening will be celebrated at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg.