New DTM for the first time in the Eifel: Opel seeks revenge for Sachsen- ring defeat, King Ludwig on the fore

When the chequered flag is shown after the first of the two Nurburgring rounds of the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters), August 20, it is only half-time in the season. After a well-balanced start of the season, with three wins apiece for both Opel and Mercedes, Opel is a little bit down before the fifth of nine DTM-week-ends in the year 2000: after a tyre failure on his Opel V8 Coupe at the Sachsenring, Manuel Reuter (Opel Team Phoenix) lost ground on points leader Bernd Schneider (Team D2 AMG Mercedes). But there is no sign of resignation within the Russelsheim squad. "Anyone who knows Opel, knows also that we never give up", says Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek. "There still are ten races with 20 points at stake in each one - the race is wide open." Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz motorsport director judges: "The result of the Sachsenring-round, with three Mercedes drivers on the podium, doesn't show the real situation in the DTM. But of course, we are happy with our advantage."

Nurburgring-king, Klaus Ludwig, who moved up into third place in the championship after his double victory in Saxony with his Mercedes-Benz CLK (Team Warsteiner AMG Mercedes), is careful with his prediction: "I am highly motivated", the 50-year old says, "but I know how quickly you can fall. In such a competitive field, you also need a bit of luck." The varying lay-out of the track reqiures a perfect co-operation between the driver and the engineer, in order to find the right balance of the car. Ludwig: "The Ring has it all: long straights, fast sections, slow corners, hard braking points - challenging for a driver, but not so complicated that my local knowledge turns out into a decisive advantage."

The two-day DTM-test at the 4.556 km long Grand Prix-track, four weeks ago, saw 16 drivers within one second, and the two Abt-drivers, Laurent Aiello and Kris Nissen were only one and a half second down on the front runners in their Abt-Audi TTRs. "Having been able to test at the Ring really helps us, we are confident coming to the Eifel", says team director Hans-Jurgen Abt. Opel-driver Uwe Alzen (Opel Team Holzer) was fastest on both days. Is Alzen a favourite? "Of course, I would like to turn my speed into a race success", he explains. "But nowhere else, the grip conditions change as quickly as they do at the Nurburgring. A set-up that is excellent today can be wrong the following day, just because of a slightly different temperature or more rubber on the track."

Harald Bloche -