DTM

Donington: Race report

In only his third DTM-race, French former F1-driver Jean Alesi claimed his maiden victory in the DTM. In the third round of the season at Donington Park (GB), the Mercedes-Benz-driver won after a magnificent race from Abt Sportsline team-mates ...

In only his third DTM-race, French former F1-driver Jean Alesi claimed his maiden victory in the DTM. In the third round of the season at Donington Park (GB), the Mercedes-Benz-driver won after a magnificent race from Abt Sportsline team-mates Christian Abt and Mattias Ekström. Opel-driver Alain Menu, double British touring car champion, looked all on course to bring Opel its first podium finish of the season, as he was second for most of the race. But then, bad luck hit him in the closing stages of the race: he had to pit with a puncture and dropped back to eighth at flagfall. Points leader Laurent Aiello first damaged the bodywork of his Abt-Audi TT-R and then had to come in three times for a stop & go-penalty. Because he failed to come in for the third penalty he was disqualified after the race. He still remains in the lead of the championship. After the Donington round, Alesi and Ekström are jointly second in the points' standings.

The race at the traditional venue in the British Midlands marked the return of the DTM to the United Kingdom, where it had many great races in the past. A 21,000 strong crowd turned up to watch the spectacular V8-powered rear-wheel driven touring cars. An exciting race was already expected beforehand, as some of the series' top stars, including reigning champion Bernd Schneider and points leader, former British touring car champion Laurent Aiello, were struck with problems in qualifying and started from a rather lowly grid position. Fast lap times during the warm-up session in the morning already underlined their potential and everybody expected a great overtaking race.

And so it came. The qualification race brought victory for Jean Alesi from Martin Tomczyk (Abt-Audi TT-R) and Manuel Reuter (Opel Astra V8 Coupé). The qualification race started with a crash: Joachim Winkelhock's Opel Astra V8 Coupé stalled on the grid, Uwe Alzen had nowhere to go and couldn't avoid the collision. Both drivers escaped unhurt, but they were out for the rest of the day. The safety car came out for three laps and then, Alesi decided the four-lap dash to the chequered flag in his favour. In the main race, he was in the lead from lights to flag apart from the time of the mandatory pit stop. Thus, he claimed his first DTM-victory, much to the delight of his many fans." A great feeling", Alesi beamed. For second-placed Christian Abt, his result came as a surprise." I never believed this after my 20thplace on the grid", he said. His Swedish team-mate Mattias Ekström was equally delighted with his third position." After all, I had to start the main race from the pit lane, because my car wasn't ready in time", he said. Dutch driver Christijan Albers came home in fourth with the one-year old version of the  Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM from Karl Wendlinger (Abt-Audi TT-R) and Marcel Fässler (Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM), who completed the top six. Bernd Schneider, who had made up eight positions in the qualification race, had to come in for two stop & go-penalties during the main race and finished twelfth.

The Opel-drivers couldn't convert their much-promising result from qualifying. Pole-sitter Manuel Reuter retired with a drivetrain failure following a collision, in which he got innocently involved earlier in the race. Timo Scheider, a strong fifth in the qualifying race, retired early in the main race after a collision, in which the bodywork of his car was heavily damaged." This is so much bad luck, you can't describe it", said Opel motorsport manager Volker Strycek." But we remain optimistic, we will keep on fighting."

Points' standings (after three of ten rounds):
1. Laurent Aiello (Abt-Audi)                    25
2. Jean Alesi (Mercedes-Benz)             17
3. Mattias Ekström (Abt-Audi)               16
4. Christian Abt (Abt-Audi)                     12
5. Bernd Schneider (Mercedes-Benz)  7
6. Martin Tomczyk (Abt-Audi)                5
7. Christijan Albers (Mercedes-Benz)   4
8. Timo Scheider (Opel)                        4
9. Karl Wendlinger (Abt-Audi)                3
10. Manuel Reuter (Opel)                        1
11. Michael Bartels (Opel)                       1
12. Marcel Fässler (Mercedes-Benz)     1

Next DTM-round:

May 31-- June 2, at the Sachsenring (D)

-dtm-

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Series DTM
Drivers Jean Alesi , Karl Wendlinger , Laurent Aiello , Marcel Fassler , Martin Tomczyk , Bernd Schneider , Uwe Alzen , Manuel Reuter , Christijan Albers , Timo Scheider , Christian Abt , Mattias Ekström , Michael Bartels , Volker Strycek , Alain Menu