Touringcar Racing - April 29th 2001 - Danish Touringcar Championship: The opening DTC race was filled with close race and passing manouvres Reigning champion, Michael Carlsen, got a good start to his title defence in this year's Danish...
Touringcar Racing - April 29th 2001 - Danish Touringcar Championship:
The opening DTC race was filled with close race and passing manouvres Reigning champion, Michael Carlsen, got a good start to his title defence in this year's Danish Touringcar Championship, when he won Sunday's final at the DTC season-opener at Jyllands-Ringen. It is the third time in a row that Carlsen wins a season-opener. In the preceeding qualification race it was the former Formula 3000 driver Jason Watt who had dominated the affair, but when the final got going, he could not keep fellow Peugeot 306 driver behind.
"We had elected to go for a lower tyre pressure for the final, and that proved to be a wrong decision," Jason Watt admitted after the race.
"I had my fastest race lap on lap 16, and normally the tyres have to peak on lap six or seven, if they are working properly. But in the final Michael Carlsen was also a lot quicker than me, and there simply was no point in trying to fight with him for eighteen laps, just in order to keep him behind."
Michael Carlsen, incidently, had not had the best start to his title defence campaign, when he lost several places in the first corner, when he had to avoid the spinning Team Brask Peugeot 306 of pole sitter Casper Elgaard.
"I got a little bit too much wheel spin at the start, and when we went into the first corner, Casper took the racing line fair and square, so I tried a wider line. But then Casper lost the back end of his car, which went out where I was heading, so suddenly I ran out of tarmac," Michael Carlsen explains.
"If I was going to win this race, I had to gain a few meters against my competitors right at the start," Casper Elgaard adds. "I made a brilliant start and had a good line into the first left-hander, but unfortunately I did overestimate the stickiness of my rear tyres and spin. It was my own stupid error."
However, the two Peugeot drivers ended up fighting for the lead in the final. Elgaard managed to work his way back from last to ninth place at the chequered flag of the qualification race, and at the end of the opening lap of the final he was in fifth position. Then he passed the racing brothers Pierre and Mike Legarth - the latter due to engine failure - as well as Jason Watt, and suddenly Elgaard was putting pressure on the leading Michael Carlsen.
"I got a few chances to pass Carlsen, but I could not really exploit them, and then suddenly the gap between us opened, when I came up to lap a slower car in a yellow flag zone," Elgaard says. "That was it really for my chances, but to be honest second place was probably also the best that I could manage with my tyres, which were getting really warm."
But even if Casper Elgaard could have kept in contact with Michael Carlsen, the latter did not think he could have threatened him.
"I still believe that I could have kept him behind me, for it was quite obvious to see that coming from further down the grid, he had over-driven his tyres. I still felt that I had the necessary reserve to win," he claims.
For championship favourties McDonald's Nissan Racing the weekend got off to a bad start in the days up to the race, when their new 2001-spec engines broke down. Two hastely-prepared older-spec engines were installed in the two Primeras, only for John Nielsen's example to give up during the Sunday morning warm up. Fate was also hard on team mate Thorkild Thyrring, who had contact with Hyundai driver Brian Mikkelsen on the opening lap of the qualification race, and then spent the final by racing up through the field to take ninth place.
Jason Watt's team mate, Jan Magnussen, was also unlucky, as his Statoil Peugeot 306 developed a fuel leak at the end of the qualification race, in which he had taken second place. The mechanics managed to fix the car, but Big Mag had to start the final from the pit lane, and then charged on to take eighth place at the chequered flag.
The opening round the Danish Touringcar Championship also marked the debut of the two non-domestic drivers, Julian Westwood and Thomas Faraas, who finished the final in 10th and 11th place in their Renault Megane Estates.
"I got a hard race, as I took the best out of the tyres early on," Julian Westwood says.
"I had some good racing with Thorkild Thyrring, but I also had some not so good racing with one of the Volvos, but overall it was enjoyable. But now we finally know the pace we are setting with the Renaults, and we need to make a little bit of work and try to find the time so that we can be a bit nearer the front. It will probably take one or two rounds to get near the level of the Peugeots."