DTM

Hockenheimring: Race report

DOMINANT WIN FOR BERND SCHNEIDER AT DTM SEASON OPENER Bernd Schneider is the glorious winner of the first season round of the 2003 DTM at the Hockenheimring. After a dominant drive at the rain-soaked track, the Mercedes-Benz-driver crossed the...

DOMINANT WIN FOR BERND SCHNEIDER AT DTM SEASON OPENER

Bernd Schneider is the glorious winner of the first season round of the 2003 DTM at the Hockenheimring. After a dominant drive at the rain-soaked track, the Mercedes-Benz-driver crossed the finish line after 37 laps with a margin of 28.002 seconds. Schneider's triumphant drive, during which he was at some stages more than two seconds per lap faster than the opposition, was his 36th victory. This means that he is now on a par with record-winner Klaus Ludwig.

Second place went to Marcel Fässler (Mercedes-Benz). The Swiss could benefit from a clever strategy in the early stages of the race and kept the upper hand over last year's champion Laurent Aiello (Abt-Audi) during some exciting fights. The Frenchman had a lot of work in a DTM race that warmed up the hearts of the DTM-fans, in spite of a heavy rain shower. Aiello also had captive fights with fellow-Frenchman Jean Alesi, who finished fourth. The other points' scoring positions were occupied by Mercedes-youngster Christijan Albers, the two Opel-drivers Peter Dumbreck and Timo Scheider and Mattias Ekström (Abt-Audi).

Plenty of race action, close competition between all the 21 drivers of Abt-Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Opel, spectacular mandatory pit stops with refuelling and a new qualifying format on Saturday: fans and drivers are equally positive following the first round of the season. During the three days, 57,000 spectators experienced the sheer fascination of the DTM.

Winner Bernd Schneider: "A perfect start into the season"

Bernd Schneider got the biggest approval from his boss. Mercedes motorsport director Norbert Haug: "Bernd was in a class of his own. I have known him since 1990. This was the best performance I have ever seen of him. He has made his mark on the race." The three times' DTM-champion, who is living in Monaco, was already looking forward a few minutes after the race. "This was a perfect start into the season. I hope that it will continue like this. But the others will hardly give me that pleasure." Generally, Norbert Haug was satisfied. "We have four of our works-cars among the first five. Great."

Last year's champion Laurent Aiello: "Scoring points was my goal"

Reigning DTM-champion Laurent Aiello was happy with third place: "Today, I couldn't have won anyway. A podium finish and points were my goal. I am confident for the remainder of the season. My Abt-Audi is very good, although we have to be better in qualifying next time." Team principal Hans-Jürgen Abt was especially happy for the fans: "This was a dramatic season opener and a good sign for an excellent season. Last year, we have become used to winning races, but now, the cards have been reshuffled."

Opel-driver Peter Dumbreck: "This was a great team strategy"

Peter Dumbreck scored three points as best-placed Opel-driver in sixth place. Opel's new signing from Great Britain was happy with his successful season opener. "Both in the wet and in the dry, my Astra V8 Coupé was great. Moreover, our team strategy was excellent, although in these conditions, this is always a gamble." Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek added: "I am really happy for Peter and his great result in his first race for Opel. At Opel, we decided to follow a different route. That was right. But it also means that we still need a little bit of time. But: we will be there." Strycek was positive about the changes in the sporting regulations: "The new DTM-format with a significantly longer race with two pit stops and refuelling is offering a lot of excitement. A big hand to all the teams in the pit lane. All the teams have shown a very high level."

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Series DTM
Drivers Jean Alesi , Laurent Aiello , Marcel Fassler , Peter Dumbreck , Bernd Schneider , Christijan Albers , Timo Scheider , Norbert Haug , Mattias Ekström , Klaus Ludwig , Volker Strycek , Hans-Jurgen Abt