Brno: Opel race report

Frentzen scores first podium for Opel in Czech Republic Opel recorded its first podium finish of the 2005 DTM touring car series at Brno in the Czech Republic on Sunday when former Formula 1 star Heinz-Harald Frentzen scored a hard-earned third...

Frentzen scores first podium for Opel in Czech Republic

Opel recorded its first podium finish of the 2005 DTM touring car series at Brno in the Czech Republic on Sunday when former Formula 1 star Heinz-Harald Frentzen scored a hard-earned third place finish after leading for the opening third of the race.

Opel started the weekend in solid fashion, with Frentzen in the top 10 in both of the 90-minute test sessions. He was backed up in the first session by Marcel Fässler, who was ninth fastest. Saturday was when Opel's weekend really came alive, with Frentzen fourth fastest in the morning's practice session.

Qualifying was an even better story, with both Frentzen and Manuel Reuter setting brilliant late laps to earn a place in the top 10 Super Pole. Frentzen set the pitlane buzzing with a lap in 1m52.371s and looked on course for his first pole position in the DTM when series leader Gary Paffett of Mercedes just pipped him by 0.18secs, having been fractionally slower at the second sector split.

Despite this, Frentzen was happy with his first front row starting position in the series: "I am very pleased," he said. "Thanks to the team, I have found a much better balance at this circuit for my car. It suits both the track and my driving style, so it's a big bonus. I didn't expect to be on the front row, but it shows that we keep on fighting. This result has given us a big lift and it's good motivation for the rest of the year."

Opel's motorsport boss Volker Strycek said: "It's great to see Heinz-Harald on the pace, and we're proud to be on the front row with him. It shows he never gives up and is willing to work hard with the team. His time today was brilliant, and was almost good enough for pole."

Reuter also sealed a good start spot with sixth on the grid. He said: "I did a Super Pole lap without any mistakes, but the track had changed a bit due to the rain between the two sessions. Still, the third row on the grid is a good position to start from."

Fässler and team-mate Laurent Aiello missed out on a top 10 spot and had to settle for 14th and 17th on the grid respectively. "The handling of my car was much better in qualifying but was still not good enough," said Fässler. "I'm disappointed because I have made it into the last eight Super Poles."

Frentzen made a perfect start to take the lead of the race, as championship leader Gary Paffett made a jump start from pole position. The three-time grand prix winner looked comfortable in the lead, as Paffett and then reigning champion Mattias Ekström of Audi gave chase.

Frentzen's hopes of victory disappeared after his first mandatory pitstop, however, as he came under attack from the second Audi of Tom Kristensen. The six-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner made Frentzen to take a more defensive approach, while Ekström was able to lap in clean air.

Ekström stopped two laps later, and rejoined side-by-side with Frentzen, but the Audi man was on the cleaner side of the track and grabbed the lead. Frentzen's slower line meant Kristensen got a run on him into the next sequence of bends, so he dropped to third. With the Audis pulling away, Frentzen concentrated on maintaining his podium status for the rest of the race, which he did in style.

"It was really a good race and it is a great feeling to be on the podium," said Frentzen. "I gained at the start when Gary made a mistake and it was working well in the early stages. I was worried about the rear tyres a little bit. I came in a lap earlier than planned for my first stop, and then I had Kristensen hit me after the stop but fortunately he didn't break anything."

He added: "When Mattias stopped, he came out of the pits so we were side-by-side into the first corner. He was on the normal line and I was on the dirty part of the track, so I got lots of pick-up [discarded rubber particles] on the tyres and it took a few laps of running to clean them. Tom used that situation to take second place, but at least I was able to keep a place on the podium. It would be fantastic if I can continue this form into the next race at Oschersleben."

Strycek said: "I am very happy for Heinz-Harald and I'm also very happy for the whole team. Third place is very nice for us. Heinz-Harald showed he could ride with the pace at the beginning when he was in the lead, but he was not so happy with his second set of tyres which meant he lost touch with the leaders. But, all in all, we are pleased that Opel is back on the podium."

The other Opels did not fare so well. Fässler was pushed into a spin by former champion Bernd Schneider of Mercedes on the opening lap and then hit by Pierre Kaffer's Audi. He would finish 15th, with Aiello 16th after he was delayed by a left-rear puncture that damaged the rear of his car. Manuel Reuter was running in the top 10 when he was forced to retire with a technical failure.


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Series DTM
Drivers Tom Kristensen , Laurent Aiello , Marcel Fassler , Bernd Schneider , Manuel Reuter , Mattias Ekström , Volker Strycek , Gary Paffett , Pierre Kaffer