Opel opened its 2004 DTM account with a double points haul in Sunday's DTM season-opener at Hockenheim, with Peter Dumbreck and Timo Scheider both finishing in the top eight in their Vectra GTS V8 racecars. The weekend started well, as Opel was...
Opel opened its 2004 DTM account with a double points haul in Sunday's DTM season-opener at Hockenheim, with Peter Dumbreck and Timo Scheider both finishing in the top eight in their Vectra GTS V8 racecars.
The weekend started well, as Opel was on the pace throughout testing, ending Friday's first session with three cars in the top five. Laurent Aiello (OPC Team Phoenix) was fastest, with Scheider (OPC Team Holzer) and Marcel Fässler (OPC Team Phoenix) third and fifth respectively. Fässler was third fastest in the second test session, with new signing Heinz-Harald Frentzen (OPC Team Holzer) also in the top 10.
Qualifying was not so good, however, as Dumbreck hit the wall on his first flying lap in the Mercedes Arena when the rear wheels of his Valvoline-backed OPC Team Phoenix car locked-up under braking, causing him to spin. The car was severely damaged, and required his team to work through the night to get it back in shape for raceday.
Despite this problem, three Opels made it into the top 10 Super Pole qualifying session, with Scheider, Manuel Reuter (OPC Team Holzer) and Fässler all making it safely through. After the single-lap Super Pole session, they would start seventh, eighth and ninth respectively in Sunday's race, a little bit disappointing for Opel's motorsport boss Volker Strycek.
"Our qualifying result was not what we expected - we are not happy with the result," said Strycek. "We know that we can do better than this. We were right on the pace of Audi and Mercedes in testing, so that cannot have gone overnight. We have shown several times that we can do it, so we need to concentrate on doing that in the race."
The race did not start well, as both Scheider and Fässler were pushed into spins on the opening lap. Aiello led the initial Opel charge in eighth, ahead of Frentzen, who was acquitting himself well in the rough-and-tumble of the early laps. Dumbreck soon emerged as the star of the show, however, the Scot passing car after car as he worked his way through towards the front of the field.
The Scot briefly held second position during the pit stop cycle, but after making his own second stop became embroiled in a battle with the fifth placed Audi of Martin Tomczyk, which had started 19 positions ahead of him on the grid. Despite feeling he had the edge in terms of speed, Dumbreck wasn't able to pass the German and was forced to settle for sixth.
"My weekend got off to a bad start, but it finished with a good ending," said Dumbreck. "The car was very good in the race, and I gave it 100 per cent. I had a great race early on with my colleagues Aiello and Frentzen, and after I won that fight I was able to work my way towards the Audis. I caught up with Tomczyk near the end, but my tyres were pretty much finished, and I couldn't pass him. From last on the grid, I'm happy with sixth."
After his early setback, Scheider produced an equally praiseworthy performance to finish in the final points-paying position in eighth. He led a quartet of Opels, with Aiello, Reuter, Frentzen and Jeroen Bleekemolen's OPC Euroteam Astra Coupe next up. The Dutchman was the best-placed driver with one-year old machinery in the DTM-field. Fässler failed to finish when he hit a kerb heavily, which sent his car into a barrier. The Swiss escaped unscathed.
"This afternoon our lap times mirrored our effort," said Strycek. "Although we had some difficulties on the opening lap, which caused some damage, Peter and Timo have shown the developments we have made with the car. It was a much more encouraging performance for us than qualifying."
On the subject of Frentzen's first race for Opel, Strycek commented: "He drove a fine race. He wasn't to the fore, but it was a sensible drive. I know that he will soon get used to the DTM, and I know from testing he has the speed."
The DTM now moves on to its first round outside Germany of the season, at Estoril in Portugal on May 2.