Opel recorded its best result of the DTM season so far at the state-of-the-art Adria International Raceway in Italy on Sunday, as Timo Scheider raced home in the top five, just ahead of the second highest placed Vectra GTS V8 racecar of former ...
Opel recorded its best result of the DTM season so far at the state-of-the-art Adria International Raceway in Italy on Sunday, as Timo Scheider raced home in the top five, just ahead of the second highest placed Vectra GTS V8 racecar of former champion Laurent Aiello, who finished sixth from 20th on the grid.
The weekend started promisingly, with three Opels in the top 10 in the initial test session on Friday, led by Swiss driver Marcel Fässler (OPC Team Phoenix) in fourth position overall in the timesheets. A similar result was repeated in the afternoon session, with Manuel Reuter leading the way in his OPC Team Holzer-run Vectra GTS racecar on fifth position, with Heinz-Harald Frentzen seventh and Peter Dumbreck ninth. Fässler was fourth once again in Saturday's free practice, the final session before qualifying, backed up by Peter Dumbreck (OPC Team Phoenix) in sixth.
But it would be Frentzen that was Opel's leader in qualifying, the former F1 World Championship runner-up qualifying sixth in the Super Pole session, setting the fastest time of all in the middle sector of the lap. Scheider (OPC Team Holzer) was the only other Vectra driver in the Top 10 qualifying run-off, and he would start ninth.
"I am not really happy with today's performance, I prefer it when all our cars are as quick as Heinz-Harald," said Opel's motorsport chief Volker Strycek on Saturday. "Frentzen did a great job, but our performance on the long runs is even better, and I hope we can show that in the race. The speed of our car is very good in the middle sector, but we are losing too much time in the last part of the lap."
Frentzen said: "I'm pleased with this result. Yesterday I was trying to learn the lines of the circuit, which is new to me, but I'm happy with the outcome of qualifying. The lap was okay, but it wasn't perfect, because I lost a lot in the first and last sectors. The middle one was perfect, however."
Scheider made a good start from ninth on the grid, in contrast to Frentzen who made a poor getaway. Timo lost some time when he was hit at Turn 2, but soon settled into a good rhythm, and passed reigning champion Bernd Schneider's Mercedes for seventh position on lap three. Frentzen was lining up Schneider for a pass when he was punted into a spin by the Audi of Christian Abt, who was given a drive-through penalty for the offence. That dropped Heinz-Harald to the tail of the field.
Scheider took full advantage when another pair of Audis collided, and following the first round of mandatory pitstops was running a solid fifth. With no more retirements in front of him, and a gap to the race leaders, Scheider reigned back his pace to preserve the car to bring it home safely. Behind him, Aiello drove a storming race to finish sixth from 20th on the grid.
Frentzen also starred as he battled back through the pack. He eventually finished 12th, despite damaging his car while fending off championship stalwart Bernd Schneider, whom he raced with in highly entertaining fashion. Manuel Reuter (OPC Team Holzer) finished 13th, ahead of the OPC Euroteam-run Astra Coupe of Holland's Jeroen Bleekemolen.
"I'm really happy about the performance of Timo, Laurent and Heinz-Harald," said Strycek. "I'm sure that Heinz-Harald knows all about what it takes to race in the DTM, coming from last position to finish 12th. His fight with Schneider was brilliant. Timo did a great job, he was hit at the second turn, but he did well to recover to finish fifth. The drive from Laurent makes me even more happy to have finished sixth from such a low starting position."
Scheider said: "It was a lonely race for me after the start. In the middle of the race I took off a bit of speed to make sure I'd make the finish. To finish fifth from ninth on the grid, and be close to the fastest lap time, is very satisfying. I look at my result as a step in the right direction."
Two Vectras failed to make the finish. Dumbreck, who was fourth fastest in the pre-race warm-up, was forced off the track on lap four, while Fässler was forced to pull into the pits with handling problems.
Strycek is upbeat about Opel's chances at the next round of the series, at EuroSpeedway Lausitz next month, where Opel finished on the podium last year. He said: "What we have to do is improve our qualifying pace, and that's what our focus is for Lausitz."
* Opel celebrated the 20th anniversary of the OPC Euroteam, located in Arese, near Milan, at Adria, which is the local event for the team.