Casper Elgaard is the new 2004 DTC Champion
Henrik Lundgaard lost championship lead after clash with Elgaard's team mate
For the first time in its history it was not a Peugeot driver who was crowned Danish Touringcar Champion this year. Instead BMW driver Casper Elgaard could lift the crown following a nail-biting final race weekend that looked as if the championship would be decided in the court room instead of at Jyllands-Ringen.
During Saturday's qualifying session three cars -- including that of championship leader Henrik Lundgaard -- could not pass the ground clearance tests. Initially the three drivers lost their recorded times and thus participation in the shoot out that will decide the top 12 grid positions, and they were initially sent to the back rows of the grid for the pre-final. However, following a series of protests and appeals, the trio was allowed to take part in the shoot out under appeals with the final decision being taken at a court hearing in the week after the meeting.
Neither of the championship favourites were impressive in the shoot out, and instead Jens Edman could claim pole position for the pre-final from Michel Nykjær and Jan Magnussen. The Swede converted his starting position to a race lead, but he was soon under attack from the reigning champion. Starting the third lap Jens Edman ran wide, making an opening which Jan Magnussen went for only to loose the car slightly, hitting the Swede and sending him into the guard rail and out of the race.
Jan Magnussen was immediately disqualified from the race, and thus it looked as if Pontus Morth would take over the race lead. But before the Volvo driver could go into the lead, he was passed by a well driving Michael Carlsen, the former DTC champion taking his first race lead for three years. But also doing great things was Michel Nykjær, who was now moving up the ranks following a very tardy start, and with three laps to go he overtook Michael Carlsen to take his second pre-final win of the year.
Further down the field Casper Elgaard was doing his championship much good by having a steady drive to fourth, while things suddenly tourned sour for rival Henrik Lundgaard. The championship leader was lying in eighth place in front of John Nielsen and Jens Møller, when everything went wrong. John Nielsen's passing move was smooth and clean, but when Jens Møller tried to replicate, he collided with Henrik Lundgaard and sent the Toyota into eventual retirement with broken suspension.
"I elected to let John slip by, as he was clearly faster, and it was a fair passing manouvre, but then a second car drives straight into me so that I could not continue my race," Henrik Lundgaard explained afterwards. Naturally, Jens Møller had different version.
"When Lundgaard saw that John was pulling alongside, he made room for him. But as I was glued to John's rear bumber, I also went for the gap," the team mate of Casper Elgaard said. "I believed there was room, and I am extremely sorry that I took Lundgaard off, because Casper could have taken the championship on his own. I wasn't doing it because it was Lundgaard. I would have done it to any other driver, even though critics would say that I did it on purpose, but I definitively didn't."
The incident and ensuing repairs forced Henrik Lundgaard to start the final from the pit exit, and as Casper Elgaard made yet another brilliant getaway to lead, the Toyota driver had to pray for miracles to swing the balance. Still, he set in a steady drive to move his way up into ninth place, but as Casper Elgaard won the race, the championship was also secure, his first after five years of trying.
Initially Kurt Thiim held second place in the final, but first the Renault driver was reeled in by Michel Nykjær and with just three laps to go he was also passed by John Nielsen, who had worked his way up from eighth at the end of lap one. Michael Carlsen also did his best in order to get by the Renault, but in the end Kurt Thiim held on to fourth place.
Even though the final was not as accident prone as the pre-final, there were several incidents, as a brake disc exploded on the car of Jan Magnussen, sending the now former champion into a near roll as the collected the unlucky privateer Jørgen Weinreich at the end of the main straight.
Although the court of appeal still has to look at the three appeals, the outcome of their decision will not change the final positions of the top three drivers, only the amount of points the trio will finish with. However, the outcome of the teams' championship is still undecided. Racing under appeal Toyota Castrol Racing 'won' the title with a mere point from Team Essex Invest, but if the court hearing will overrule their appeal, Team Essex Invest will take the title for the second year in a row.