Opel scored a double points haul in the second round of the DTM Championship at Estoril in Portugal, but it was robbed of a likely podium finish when its leading driver, Timo Scheider, was forced to go briefly off the track due to a mechanical ...
Opel scored a double points haul in the second round of the DTM Championship at Estoril in Portugal, but it was robbed of a likely podium finish when its leading driver, Timo Scheider, was forced to go briefly off the track due to a mechanical problem. He rejoined to finish sixth, while recent signing Laurent Aiello scored his first point for Opel in eighth.
The DTM returned to the former Portuguese Grand Prix venue for the first time in eight years, and Opel showed its potential in qualifying when Timo Scheider placed his OPC Team Holzer Vectra GTS V8 racecar third on the grid following an excellent laptime just 0.4secs off pole position. His team-mate, former F1 star Heinz-Harald Frentzen, also made it into the top 10 Super Pole session, and qualified eighth.
"I'm really happy about this result in our first test to come back as a frontrunner," said Opel's motorsport chief Volker Strycek. "Timo did a brilliant job. We only had two cars in the top 10, but to have a car on the second row is really good."
Speaking about Frentzen's performance, in only his second DTM event, Strycek added: "I was absolutely confident in Heinz-Harald after his test sessions in the winter and was sure that he would be strong. He showed us here how quick he can be, and was one of the fastest cars in the final sector in qualifying."
Commenting on his third fastest time, Scheider said: "The lap was really good, only the middle sector wasn't as good as it might have been. We made a change to the rear axle, and the car was much better than before. I didn't expect such a good laptime, so I'm really happy about that. We've definitely made a step forward, so I have to say a big thank you to the team for that."
Scheider made a great start and defended his third position at the first corner, despite a strong attack from multiple Le Mans 24 Hour winner Tom Kristensen (Audi). Scheider kept the leading duo of Christijan Albers (Mercedes) and Mattias Ekstrom (Audi) in his sights throughout the early and middle stages of the race.
With 13 laps to go, and a podium finish apparently secure thanks to healthy advantage over the chasing Audis behind him, Scheider went off the track at Turn 7 when his throttle pedal momentarily jammed. He did a great job to steer his Vectra back on to the track from the gravel trap, but three places had been lost. Timo spent the rest of the race ensuring that former Formula 1 star Jean Alesi could not get past him.
"To lose a podium in this fashion is very disappointing," said Scheider. "Third place was definitely in the bag. What does make me happy is the performance we had this weekend, not just from the car but from the team and the strategy too. Now we have to look forward to Adria. We have found something, so maybe we have made one-and-a-half steps towards our goal of two steps closer to the opposition."
Strycek said: "It's a little bit disappointing as Timo was on the pace before he had a small problem with the throttle cable. This is our best performance in quite a while, so I'm not really unhappy, but one car being competitive is not good enough. That really should be our focus for the next race. It's fantastic to see the performance from Timo, racing for a podium position. It means our performance is there, we just need to reproduce it."
Aiello (OPC Team Phoenix) finished eighth, despite a spin while chasing Marcel Fässler (OPC Team Phoenix). The latter was forced to retire with a broken suspension link late on, which promoted OPC Team Phoenix team-mate Peter Dumbreck to ninth.
Frentzen ran strongly early on until he was hit by former grand prix sparring partner Alesi, and sent into the gravel trap. Following another spin later on, he finished 12th. Manuel Reuter (OPC Team Holzer) finished 16th after making an unexpected extra pitstop late on.
The Estoril event attracted 20,000 spectators, despite the DTM's eight-year absence. Commenting on the event, Strycek said: "I like this venue a lot, and we are proud to have brought the DTM here."