2000 German Touring Cars (DTM)
Rounds 12 & 13 - Oschersleben, D, 24 September 2000 Alzen wins as
Reuter keeps title fight alive
After bad luck had kept it off the DTM podium for four frustrating races, Opel came back with a vengeance in rounds 12 and 13 at Oschersleben: Uwe Alzen (Opel Team Holzer) took his maiden DTM win after a masterclass on how to race under pressure, while Manuel Reuter (Opel Team Phoenix) kept his title hopes alive and kicking with a pair of fighting drives on to the podium.
Adding to raceday successes, a superb qualifying effort had seen Opel V8 Coupes filling six of the top 10 slots, with Alzen second on the grid and Reuter third, despite missing much of the official pre-race test after crashing heavily.
A multi-car accident at the start of race one meant red flags and a restart for the depleted grid after a 30-minute delay to move several damaged cars, including the Opel of Norisring race-winner Jo Winkelhock (Opel Team Holzer). As the field took the rolling start for a second time, Alzen out-dragged the Mercedes of championship-leader Bernd Schneider and took a lead he would hold until the chequered flag, despite constant pressure.
"That was a perfect start for me," said a happy Alzen afterwards, "And after that the race went exactly to plan. Every single lap I was completely on the limit and I could always see Bernd in my mirrors, but it's one thing to push and another to overtake.
"It was fantastic to get my first DTM win and I must say that it was even better because I did it by beating Bernd in such a close fight."
Behind the lead pair, Manuel Reuter finished third and re-ignited his title challenge, despite having to guess at his car's set-up after damaging it in the morning warm-up.
Just behind Alzen and Reuter, Eric Helary (Opel Team Holzer) in fourth place, Michael Bartels (Opel Team Phoenix) fifth and Timo Scheider (Opel Team Holzer) eighth made it five Opels in the top eight.
In race two, Alzen again took the lead at the rolling start, with Reuter getting ahead of Schneider to make it an Opel one-two in the opening laps. But a daring pass by Schneider on Reuter and a small mistake from Alzen caused by the extremely slippery Oschersleben track surface meant Reuter finished the race in second place, with Alzen fourth.
Reuter's pair of podiums were all the more impressive when he explained how fumes inside the car had made his races into tests of endurance : "I think we had a small hole somewhere in my car after the testing accident, and that was allowing fumes and hot air in. For sure, the second race especially was very, very hard for me, but the team did a great job in working on my car and improving its handling between races."
The result puts Reuter back up to second in the championship standings, 59 points behind Schneider, but with a maximum of 80 available from the last four races.
"It's going to be tough for me if Bernd finishes all of the remaining races," he said, "But we are all motivated and we've shown this weekend how much we are prepared to keep on fighting."
Alzen was disappointed not to add a second win to his race one success, but explained the difficulty of racing at Oschersleben : "The track gets so dirty off the racing line that if you get even half a metre off line, you're spinning. Okay, the spin was my fault, but it was still a great day for me and it's my favourite track next - the Nurburgring."
A fifth for Bartels, plus points finishes for Scheider and Helary added to a successful afternoon for Opel. Afterwards, sports chief Volker Strycek praised his drivers and the teams for a brilliant fighting performance at Oschersleben : "This has been a very positive weekend for Opel and I'm really happy for the drivers and all the guys who've been working so hard. It was absolutely necessary for us to be on the pace here after our bad luck in recent races and I think everybody showed great fighting spirit.
"When you consider that Manuel Reuter had a testing crash and a warm-up accident and had no chance to set up his car for the race, but still took two podiums, it's been a great weekend for him.
"I'm also very happy for Uwe Alzen," he added. "He's been getting stronger and stronger in recent races and put in a superb drive. His spin in race two was a pity, because he deserved two victories, but the track is so slippery that the window between staying on and going off is tiny. He did an excellent job."
The DTM heads back to the Nurburgring next, with Opel ready and motivated to build on its Oschersleben success.
<pre> Race 1 (25 laps)
1 Uwe Alzen Opel 36:40.590 2 Bernd Schneider Mercedes 36:40.867 3 Manuel Reuter Opel 36:53.501 4 Eric Helary (F) Opel 37:01.896 5 Laurent Aiello (F) Audi 37:05.572 6 Klaus Ludwig Mercedes 37:07.319
Race 2 (28 laps)
1 Bernd Schneider Mercedes 40:59.364 2 Manuel Reuter Opel 41:03.026 3 Klaus Ludwig Mercedes 41:07.291 4 Uwe Alzen Opel 41:09.117 5 Michael Bartels Opel 41:11.599 6 Peter Dumbreck (GB) Mercedes 41:12.007
DTM Drivers - after 13 rounds:
1 Bernd Schneider Mercedes 181 points 2 Manuel Reuter Opel 122 Klaus Ludwig Mercedes 122 4 Marcel Faessler (CH) Mercedes 83 5 Jo Winkelhock Opel 70 6 Peter Dumbreck (GB) Mercedes 68