NURBURGRING, August 20th, 2000 - After a superb qualifying effort that saw six of the top 10 places taken by its V8 Coupes, Opel's hopes of a victory in rounds nine and 10 of the DTM at the Nurburgring were dashed by bad luck and the unpredictable Eifel weather.
Heavy rain 30 minutes before the start of race one made the opening laps something of a lottery. Manuel Reuter (Opel Team Phoenix), second in the points before the Nurburgring, mastered the tricky conditions best and kept his title hopes alive with a fifth place, the best of the Opels. He repeated the feat in race two, despite having to contend with a drying track on wet tyres and fend off the attentions of Marcel Tiemann for much of the 22 laps.
Reuter is now third in the points, 51 points behind double Nurburgring winner Bernd Schneider, but with eight races and a maximum 160 points still up for grabs, he believes the battle for the championship is far from over.
"I believe we can battle back," said Reuter. "The remaining circuits are probably more suited to our car and while we still have a chance, we'll fight for it."
Eric Helary (Opel Team Holzer) also challenged for a podium place in race one, before being spun off as he attempted to pass Peter Dumbreck's Mercedes for third. Dumbreck was reprimanded for the incident, but Helary recovered to finish a strong eighth, one place ahead of Jo Winkelhock (Opel Team Holzer).
Helary went one place better in race two, finishing seventh after an entertaining duel with Christian Menzel (Opel Team Irmscher). After pitting for new tyres in race one, Menzel had charged through from 17th on the grid in the second race and was rewarded with a ninth place for his efforts.
Uwe Alzen (Opel Team Holzer) qualified on the front row for race one. At the rolling start, he slotted into second behind pole-sitter Bernd Schneider, but a gear selection problem exiting the final corner of the first lap put the German momentarily onto the grass and down to 10th. Alzen fought back, but more heavy rain and a faulty windscreen wiper meant his only reward for a fighting drive was the single point for 10th.
"The windscreen wiper was a problem, because every time I got close to the car ahead, I was unable to see to pass him," admitted Alzen.
On an afternoon when the Nurburgring's famously changeable weather made staying on the tarmac an art in itself, Michael Bartels (Opel Team Phoenix) took 10th in race two, ahead of Timo Scheider (Opel Team Holzer) and Alzen. Scheider had shown his growing confidence and experience earlier in the day, when the young German topped the timesheets in the morning warm-up.
Opel Motorsport's Volker Strycek said : "Opel is still learning about rear-wheel drive and we do not have as much experience as Mercedes with it - our performance as a result of today's conditions demonstrated that. The cars were difficult to drive today, which is why so many of our drivers went off the track, but we will analyse and we will push hard to close the gap. We are learning all the time, there are eight races still to go and this championship is not over until Hockenheim. With a little good luck, anything is still possible."
The DTM heads to the brand new Lausitzring circuit in eastern Germany next (September 3rd), and with a two-day official test at the track to fine-tune its fleet of Astra V8 Coupes, Opel and Manuel Reuter know that the championship is far from settled.
<pre> Race 1 (22 laps)
1 Berndt Schneider Mercedes 41:44.886
2 Klaus Ludwig Mercedes 42:11.629
3 Marcel Faessler (CH) Mercedes 42:17.698
4 Pedro Lamy (P) Mercedes 42:20.086
5 Manuel Reuter Opel 42:21.749
6 Peter Dumbreck (GB) Mercedes 42:28.592
Race 2 (22 laps)
1 Berndt Schneider Mercedes 41:46.350
2 Klaus Ludwig Mercedes 41:57.964
3 Marcel Faessler (CH) Mercedes 42:00.750
4 Pedro Lamy (P) Mercedes 42:01.653
5 Manuel Reuter Opel 42:13.071
6 Marcel Tiemann Mercedes 42:20.782
DTM Drivers (after 5 rounds):
1 Berndt Schneider Mercedes 146 points
2 Klaus Ludwig Mercedes 104
3 Manuel Reuter Opel 95
4 Marcel Faessler (CH) Mercedes 83
5 Jo Winkelhock Opel 70
6 Peter Dumbreck (GB) Mercedes 62
ENDS _______________________________________________________________ Opel Motorsport Press, ProAction Media Relations, Kings Hall, Parsons Green, St Ives, Huntingdon, Cambs PE27 4WY Tel: 01480 494060 Fax: 01480 494062 e-mail: email@example.com _______________________________________________________________