Opel's Peter Dumbreck on fourth in DTM -- F3 title win for Briscoe and Opel
In front of a massive 105,000-strong crowd at Hockenheim in Germany, Opel ended its DTM season just one-second away from the podium after a thrilling final round.
Scotland's Peter Dumbreck (OPC Team Phoenix), who qualified in an excellent second position in his Astra V8 Coupe, couldn't manage to keep the Mercedes duo of Jean Alesi (who won the race) and Marcel Fassler behind him. He drove well to keep the Audi of reigning champion Laurent Aiello in his rear-view mirror, however, after 37 laps of the famous Grand Prix circuit.
Opel was on the pace throughout testing, ending Friday with three cars in the top five. It suffered an unlucky blow ahead of the Super-Pole, however, when frontrunner Manuel Reuter (OPC Team Holzer) crashed at Turn 1 in the treacherously wet conditions in qualifying, which damaged his Astra too severely to take part in the one-lap shoot-out. He would start the race in 10th on the grid.
A stunning lap from Dumbreck almost ended in disaster too when his rear brakes locked-up at the Sachskurve, but he just managed to keep the car out of the gravel and complete his lap. That was still good enough for second position and a place on the front row.
"The first two sectors went very well," said Dumbreck. "But then I had a big slide in the Motordrom, it was very slippery there, which cost me a lot of time. But I am happy to be where I am, and I think we have a good chance to get a good result from the front row of the grid."
"It was a great performance from Peter," said Opel's motorsport director Volker Strycek. 'We have proved today that our strong performance in the previous race at Zandvoort was not a one-off thing. Too bad that Manuel couldn't take part in the Super-Pole following his accident."
Dumbreck made a great start to the race, but Alesi outbraked him for second place at the hairpin on the opening lap. Peter now had series leader Bernd Schneider right on his tail in another Mercedes, but the Scot kept him at bay despite some contact. As Schneider dropped back with a puncture, Dumbreck was just 15 laps away from the podium when Fassler passed him, forcing him to settle for fourth.
"I got a great start but Jean picked up the tow and got past me," said Dumbreck. "My team gave me two fantastic pitstops, and I was right in the fight with the leaders throughout the race. I made a small mistake under braking which allowed Fassler to pass me, but we were all running such similar speeds it was difficult to gain any more places."
Making it two Opels to finish in the points was Zandvoort hero Timo Scheider, who suffered a spin at Spitzkehre while battling against title protagonists Schneider and Christijan Albers. Dumbreck's team mate recovered to finish seventh.
"For us it would be great if the championship went on until Christmas," said Strycek. "We are now on the pace of the leaders and I think it would only take one or two further races for us to win. Now we will start preparing for next season and aim for a similar high level of performance in 2004."
Of the other Opels, Alain Menu (OPC Team Holzer) finished 10th after being penalised with a drive-through penalty for a collision with the Audi of Martin Tomczyk. Jeroen Bleekemolen (OPC Euroteam) finished 15th, but team-mate Joachim Winkelhock (collision) and Reuter (first a puncture and then a misfire) were both forced to retire before the end.