Jan Magnussen won dry-wet DTC season opener.
Kurt Thiim drove two blinding races to take runner-up spot in the final.
Peugeot Statoil 307 driver Jan Magnussen was the winner of the final when the 2002 Danish Touringcar Championship was kicked off at Jyllands-Ringen on Sunday. Despite making two mediocre starts in both the pre-final and the final the Panoz factory driver still managed to win the action packed main race to take an early championship lead. However, the undisputed star of the day was Kurt Thiim, who started the pre-final from the back row, but managed to finish as runner-up in the final following two blinding races.
Pole sitter Magnussen blew his start at the pre-final, leaving the K-motorsport Honda Civic of Henrik Larsen and the Essex Invest BMW 320i of Casper Elgaard to slip in front before the first corner. While Magnussen thus succesfully managed to keep former European Rally Champion Henrik Lundgaard at bay in fourth place, Elgaard started to challenge Larsen for the lead. Midway through the fourth lap, Elgaard attempted to nip inside Larsen, but as the latter shut the door the small Honda Civic was sent into a half-spin and lost three positions in the process.
"The incident wrecked my front splitter, and that gave me severe problems for the rest of race," Larsen explained.
Thus Elgaard was the new leader, and even though there was some tyre smoke initially caused by a broken front panel, the BMW driver managed to keep control of the race, which he won from the Peugeot 307 twins of Jan Magnussen and Jason Watt with Henrik Larsen in fourth. In the process Elgaard also managed to post quickest race lap, and he had thus qualified for pole position for the final.
Two drivers making up ground during the race was Toyota Corolla driver Kurt Thiim and reigning champion Michael Carlsen, who both started the pre-final from the back row. While the latter had ruined his engine during free practice and thus had to start with a hastily-assembled spare engine, Thiim had been busy taking part in a V8 Star race at Hockenheim. But at Jyllands-Ringen he was also quite busy. Within six laps he had got by 15 competitors and taken the brand-new Corolla into top 10 and he then continued to take another three positions to finish the pre-final in seventh place. Carlsen, however, was somewhat handicapped by his down-on-power spare engine, and could thus only start his title defence with 11th place.
During the 12 minute interval between the pre-final and final it started to rain slightly, making the circuit damp. When the lights again went from red to green for the final, Magnussen made a very tardy getaway.
"I haven't had the opportunity to practice starts with the new Peugeot 307," Magnussen explained. "With this new engine, it is very difficult to get the revs exactly right for a perfect start, but that is something that we have to work with."
Instead Casper Elgaard made a good start, but Jason Watt's was even better. The 2001 championship runner-up went into the lead, and when Elgaard had to be really careful with the rearwheel driven BMW in the new conditions, Magnussen was allowed back into second place. But behind this trio all hell broke loose at the first corner.
Starting from a lowly eighth position Henrik Larsen got a good start and was alongside John Nielsen's BMW 320i when the pair tangled. Larsen's Honda was sent across the front of Nielsen's and into the side of Henrik Lundgaard's Toyota, which had taken a carefull outside line into the first corner. Now all three were out for the rest of the day, as was top Citroën driver Jesper Sylvest.
The incident gave plenty of room for Mike Legarth's older BMW 320i to take fourth in front of Michael Carlsen and Kurt Thiim, but as this duo was quicker they soon got past Legarth. At the front Watt was still leading, but soon he came under pressure from Magnussen, while Carlsen was also giving Elgaard in third a hard time, the top quartet being covered by a mere 1,2 second at the end of lap six. Two laps later it was Watt's time to get into trouble.
"I got outside of the racing line and had to contra steer the car," Watt explained. "As the car has front wheel drive I also had to give full power, but having to steer, power and change gear at the same time is complicated with only two hands. When I had things sorted out, Jan had passed me."
Magnussen now sailed into a lead he was never to loose, but nevertheless he was quite confident about his form. "Even if Jason hadn't run into trouble, I would have won, as I was faster than him," Magnussen said.
On lap nine both Michael Carlsen and Kurt Thiim passed Casper Elgaard's BMW, and thus it was Thiim's time to go for a place on the podium. He put the pressure on Carlsen, and as the circuit started to get drier, he found a way past the reigning champion. Now he set his sight on Watt's second place, and after having put pressure on him for a few laps, he found an opening with four laps to go and took the runner-up position.