Opel made it on to the podium in the eighth round of the DTM at Zandvoort in Holland on Sunday with its former Formula 1 star Heinz-Harald Frentzen taking an assured third place finish after leading the race on a couple of occasions. Opel ...
Opel made it on to the podium in the eighth round of the DTM at Zandvoort in Holland on Sunday with its former Formula 1 star Heinz-Harald Frentzen taking an assured third place finish after leading the race on a couple of occasions.
Opel demonstrated that it was on the pace of the leaders throughout Friday's three hours of testing, with Marcel Fässler setting the second and third quickest times in the two sessions. Frentzen then took over the Opel baton by setting the third fastest time in Saturday's practice session, where he was joined in the top 10 by Laurent Aiello and Manuel Reuter.
Qualifying was a tricky affair for the teams, as the session was halted midway through after Mercedes' Jean Alesi suffered a spectacular crash. The disruption to the pre-qualifying period meant that Aiello and Reuter missed out on getting into the top 10 Super Pole, but Fässler and Frentzen made it with ease with the third and fourth fastest times respectively.
In a typically tight Super Pole, Fässler and Frentzen both produced error-free laps to grab second and third on the grid, as only four-time champion Bernd Schneider went quicker to take pole, making it Opel's best qualifying performance of the year so far.
"My lap was really good," said Fässler. "To set a time inside 1m33s here is very nice. All my laps this weekend have been very encouraging, so I'm looking forward to a strong performance in the race as well."
Frentzen said: "Everything came together really well today. The car feels good and so do I. The situation with the red flag made it tricky to get into the top 10, and I only managed it at the last moment. I knew I had to take the opportunity, and with third place on the grid I think I showed I did this."
Opel motorsport boss Volker Strycek commented: "I have to thank the team and drivers for doing an excellent job today. Having two cars in the first two rows is a fantastic achievement. Our lap times are a lot quicker here than last year, and it shows the performance is there. Both Manuel and Laurent were unlucky but I know they will have the same pace as Marcel and Heinz-Harald in the race."
Frentzen made a great start to grab second while Fässler, who was starting on the dirtier side of the grid, slipped back to fourth initially and then was passed by title protagonist Gary Paffett (Mercedes) who would eventually go on to win the race. As the pitstop cycle began, Frentzen stayed out for a long first stint to lead the race for ten laps before stopping on lap 16.
Fässler used an opposing strategy but held his fifth position in the middle stages of the race. That became fourth when Schneider was penalised with a drive-through penalty for hitting another car.
Frentzen led again for another four laps before his final pitstop, dropping him to third which was where he finished. Fässler clung to fourth until the penultimate corner when Tom Kristensen, with whom he had been battling for lap after lap, just managed to find a way past him on the final lap. Fässler could do nothing about that, but did well to ensure that the close following Martin Tomczyk stayed behind him.
"I'm really happy with today's result," said Strycek. "It was a fantastic fight between Marcel and Tom, which kept everyone on the edge of their seats, while Heinz-Harald brought us the podium result that we had been looking for. We showed the pace of our cars this weekend and hope to continue this form to the end of the season."
Frentzen, who matched his best DTM finish from the Brno round, said: "Once we find a good set-up we can get into a good groove with this car. I was absolutely confident about today and I was proved right. We switched our strategy to stay out for a long first stint, and I was driving as hard as I could. I could do nothing about Paffett and Ekström, because they overtook me while I was in the pits, so the aim was to make sure I made it onto the podium."
Further back, Aiello went off on the first lap and was able to finish no higher than 14th after getting caught up in a number of midfield fights. Reuter, who was making his 200th DTM start, retired with a broken splitter after a collision with two-time Formula 1 World Champion Mika Häkkinen of Mercedes.