Points for Timo Scheider at the Nurburgring
Opel demonstrated its undoubted potential, but was unable to back that up with the results it deserved in a hard-fought round seven of the DTM at the Nurburgring. Timo Scheider (OPC Team Phoenix) took points for seventh overall in his Astra V8 Coupe, but it was only a small consolation in an afternoon that promised more for Opel's six-car squad.
As proof of Opel's competitiveness at the Eifel circuit, Peter Dumbreck (OPC Team Phoenix) set the fastest race lap of any driver and maintains his position as best Opel driver in the overall standings, seventh overall. But the Scot, like OPC Team Holzer drivers Manuel Reuter and Alain Menu (who also recorded the day's fastest pit-stop) was forced to settle for less than he deserved after incidents during the frantic 41-lap race thwarted their plans. Menu was ninth, Dumbreck 10th and Reuter 15th.
Dumbreck took fifth on the grid in a new initiative for the DTM - night qualifying. Over sixty large, light-filled helium balloons and floodlights were used to illuminate the circuit, but it still took great skill and bravery to put together an inch-perfect lap. He was joined in the top 10 by Menu and Reuter, seventh and ninth respectively.
Dumbreck made a strong start, but was forced wide at the first corner. He dropped to sixth, but fell further down the order after receiving a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane and also being forced to drive through the gravel after spinning. It was a similar story for Menu, who lost several places in a spin on lap two, and Reuter, who was forced to spun into the gravel because of oil on the track.
Jeroen Bleekemolen (OPC Euroteam) and teammate Joachim Winkelhock were also delayed by some rough-and-tumble racing in the midfield, with Bleekemolen forced to retire with damage after being hit several times from behind by Mercedes driver Stefan Mucke. As a result, Scheider was the only Opel driver without an incident.
"There were some things going on out on the track which shouldn't really have been happening," said Scheider, who had climbed to seventh after qualifying only 14th. "I managed to avoid it, but I saw a lot of incidents happening around me. I knew I could make a top 10 finish and I'm happy to take two points. Without a couple of small mistakes in qualifying, it could have been much more."
"Maybe we lack a little bit in our qualifying trim," he added, "but in the races we know we can perform well. We still have three races to improve and get some strong results, and Peter Dumbreck's fastest lap has shown it's possible to be right up there."
Opel's motorsport director, Volker Strycek, added: "I've said it before, and we see it again today: Opel is on the DTM pace. Our speed in practice and qualifying further demonstrates that. But when you see that our fastest car is quicker than any other, and you add in Manuel's potential too, it's very disappointing. We expected more and I think we deserved more."
Saturday night's floodlit Super-Pole was just one new initiative in a weekend where the DTM showed it could provide great entertainment on and off the track. Another first for the series was a WBC super middleweight world title fight at the circuit between Germany's Markus Beyer and Australia's Danny Green. The fight began just minutes after Super-Pole ended, supplying an exciting live sporting double-header for spectators at the track and viewers of the ARD TV channel. With live music and on-track entertainment, 85,000 fans were excited and entertained by the DTM.
"We could talk about this weekend for hours and hours, " said Strycek, "because there was just so much to do and see for the fans. The TV pictures from Saturday night were sensational and linking the DTM with an exciting sport like boxing showed how two very different sports can fit so well together. The whole event was a great thing."
The DTM moves to Austria next, with round eight of the ultra-competitive 10-race series taking place at the A1-Ring, near Spielberg, on September 7.
Note: The winning drivers from the 2003 Nurburgring 24 Hours received a special accolade when plaques commemorating the names of the winning drivers were unveiled on the circuit's Champions' Wall. Volker Strycek, Marcel Tiemann, Timo Scheider and Manuel Reuter, the drivers of the winning Opel Astra V8 Coupe, unveiled their plaques on Saturday. The Champions' Wall celebrates outstanding achievements at the Nurburgring dating back to the track's inception in 1927.