Bernd Schneider Wins DTM Season Opener Marcel FÃ¤ssler Second All four new Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM among top-five Bernd Schneider (Vodafone AMG-Mercedes) won the first race of the 2003 DTM at Hockenheim. In changing weather conditions with first a...
Bernd Schneider Wins DTM Season Opener
Marcel Fässler Second
All four new Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM among top-five
Bernd Schneider (Vodafone AMG-Mercedes) won the first race of the 2003 DTM at Hockenheim. In changing weather conditions with first a dry track, then heavy rain and finally a drying surface Bernd won 28.002sec ahead of Marcel Fässler (AMG-Mercedes). After 37 laps, Jean Alesi (AMG-Mercedes) came home fourth behind Laurent Aiello (Abt-Audi TT-R), Christijan Albers (ExpressService AMG-Mercedes) finished fifth. It was Bernd's 36th victory in DTM and ITC who is now tied for the lead of the winners' list with Klaus Ludwig.
Rain began to fall during the start of the first race with the new format covering a distance of 169 kilometres. Schneider took the lead from pole position, Alesi followed in second place. The Frenchman had started fifth and passed three cars until the first corner. Fässler was third after the first lap.
From lap 3 to 6 the Safety Car was deployed due to the heavy rain. All drivers, except Fässler, Albers and Jeroen Bleekemolen (Opel Astra V8 Coupé), took the opportunity to change to rain tyres. Fässler and Albers remained behind the Safety Car until lap 6. Now they were allowed to combine the change to rain tyres with the compulsory first pit stop thus saving one stop.
Schneider made his first compulsory stop on lap 21. He led by more than 30sec and maintained the lead when he rejoined the race, also after his third stop on lap 29. After the final round of pit stops, Fässler was second and defended his position against charging Aiello until the chequered flag.
Vodafone AMG-Mercedes, Bernd Schneider:
"My car ran perfect in wet and dry conditions and my pit crew did a great job with all three stops. It was a difficult race in these conditions, and driving at the limit all the time is possible only with a perfectly set-up car."
ExpressService AMG-Mercedes, Christijan Albers finished fifth in his first race for the HWA team:
"Our strategy worked well. This result is a good beginning, however, I expected a bit more from this weekend."
AMG-Mercedes, Marcel Fässler:
"Even behind the Safety Car, I almost slid off the track with slicks, but after changing to wet tyres on lap 6 I knew that our strategy would work. The battle with Aiello was hard but fair, it was great fun."
AMG-Mercedes, Jean Alesi fought with Aiello from lap 22 to 26, but the Abt-Audi driver won the duel after several passing manoeuvres:
"I made a good start and also most of my race went well. Unfortunately, I had a problem with my pit radio so I was not able to communicate with the team. I couldn't even hear Norbert Haug whom I usually can hear even without radio. I'm happy for the team, they scored a lot of points today."
Original-Teile AMG-Mercedes, Thomas Jäger was the best driver of a 2002 Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM and finished tenth:
"I made no mistakes which was important particularly today, and our pit stops worked well, too."
Bernd Mayländer, 18th in Qualifying, improved to 11th at the chequered flag. - ARTA AMG-Mercedes, Katsutomo Kaneishi finished 19th. - Service 24 h AMG-Mercedes, Stefan Mücke was ninth when he was pushed into the gravel by Peter Dumbreck (Opel Astra V8 Coupé). He finally finished 17th. - Patrick Huisman came home 13th.
Norbert Haug, Vice President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
"Bernd Schneider and I work together for 13 years now, but his performance today exceeds everything. He was a class of his own. This was also a great victory for the HWA team headed by Hans-Jürgen Mattheis and Gerhard Ungar. They could hardly do better than finishing with four cars among the top-five. It was a clever strategy to call Marcel Fässler in not before lap 6, and Marcel made the best out of it. The new race format has proved to be good and we have seen great sport today."