DTM

F?ssler happy with surprise win

F?ssler happy with surprise win

'A crazy race' was how winner Marcel Fässler described the eighth round of the DTM championship at the A1-Ring last weekend. It was a surprise how many cars managed to cross the finish line after the last corner chaos and none was more surprised...

'A crazy race' was how winner Marcel F?ssler described the eighth round of the DTM championship at the A1-Ring last weekend. It was a surprise how many cars managed to cross the finish line after the last corner chaos and none was more surprised than F?ssler himself to get there first. In the last laps it was madness, with cars crashing and spinning off and the positions changed so rapidly it was only in the last few hundred metres that the podium was decided.

Marcel Fassler.
Photo by ITR e.V..
F?ssler was hardly expecting a win: on the Friday and Saturday he was unhappy with the car and annoyed at himself for not doing better after qualifying twelfth. But come the Sunday it all fell into place: "The car was really bad in free practice and qualifying," he told Motorsport.com. "It was a combination of the car and driver, I was not happy with the track. But in the race it was much better than before."

In the qualifying race F?ssler climbed to tenth for the start of the main event despite a tyre failure on the last lap. He was up to seventh in the opening laps of the main race after Warsteiner AMG Mercedes team mate Uwe Alzen spun out from fourth. A very good pit stop put him up to sixth and into the thick of the action.

"Both my starts were good," he said. "I gained because Alzen spun and my pit stop was really good. Fantastic work from my mechanics put me ahead of (Alain) Menu and my in and out laps were good as well."

Marcel Fassler.
Photo by ITR e.V..
It was after the round of obligatory pit stops that the madness set in: "It was a crazy race," F?ssler laughed, sounding a little bemused. "The rain started falling and I was following them all (the front of the field) and then suddenly I was third." Unexpected offs from Bernd Schneider and Laurent Aiello, who were fighting for the championship, presented F?ssler with an opportunity that he was quick to make the most of. "I tried to take (Mattias) Ekstr?m, then managed to take both him and Jean Alesi in the same corner."

Gaining the lead was brief as F?ssler suddenly found himself back in fourth, such was the frantic activity on track with cars racing three abreast in some cases. Approaching the last corner of the final lap Alesi was leading but it was anyone's guess what the finishing order would be. Ekstr?m spun after contact with Schneider, involving three of the Opel team's cars as well, then Schneider, F?ssler and Aiello went head to head.

"The last corner was really hard," F?ssler explained. "Bernd (Schneider) and Aiello had trouble and Aiello hit me at the back. I nearly spun but kept going and tried to get ahead. I didn't see Aiello hit the barrier but I thought Bernd had gone into the gravel."

Leader Alesi backed off in the hope of letting Schneider through, to keep the championship alive: Schneider needed to finish ahead of Aiello to keep himself in the running. As it was, Schneider was only just out of the gravel and F?ssler was already going flat out.

"I was going flat, Jean braked but it was too late for me to stop. I wanted to help Bernd but I had problems of my own at the time! I was not sure I had won, I thought maybe the start line was further than the finish line and Jean was slowing because he'd already won. At the time so much happened I didn't know I had won."

"For me personally it was really good but I would have preferred to win by my own merit, not in those circumstances. It was a mistake but it was so fast there was no time to think."

For Mercedes the outcome was satisfactory: it may have been preferable for Schneider to win but he was lucky to even get over the line after the last corner confusion. He still finished ahead of Aiello, which was what Mercedes had been aiming for. F?ssler said it was not a problem, Mercedes were not blaming him in any way.

The podium: race winner Marcel Fassler.
Photo by ITR e.V..
"In this case I'm happy," he said of his surprise victory. "If I was unhappy it would mean I was in trouble! It was hard for everyone to figure out what was going on, it was only two or three hundred metres to go and at that speed it was hard for the team to see what would happen, to try to make any decisions."

While the other Mercedes drivers did what they could to help Schneider -- who is now the only Mercedes driver in the running to beat Aiello for the title -- F?ssler says it's not so much team orders as simply doing the right thing: "You don't need team orders to understand what you need to do," he stated. "When he can win and others can't it's very important to be a team player. It's not a one man show."

"You need a good team behind you and if I can help him (Schneider) in the last two races I will. I'd like to think that if I was in that position, the team would help me."

It may be too late for F?ssler this year but he's already looking forward to the future. Although he thinks he should have got himself into the points in every race, he's confident that he's learning and improving all the time. It may have been an accident that he crossed the line first at the A1-Ring but given the circumstances it was a cool-headed, mature performance that got him across it at all.

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Series DTM
Drivers Jean Alesi , Marcel Fassler , Bernd Schneider