DTM

Hockenheimring: Opel race report

Double points haul for new-look Opel team Opel started its 2003 DTM campaign with two cars in the points at the season-opener at Hockenheim in Germany on Sunday. Scotland's Peter Dumbreck, a new signing over the winter break from rivals ...

Double points haul for new-look Opel team

Opel started its 2003 DTM campaign with two cars in the points at the season-opener at Hockenheim in Germany on Sunday. Scotland's Peter Dumbreck, a new signing over the winter break from rivals Mercedes-Benz, finished sixth and his OPC Team Phoenix team-mate Timo Scheider was seventh.

All six of the brand new, 2003-spec Astra V8 Coupes were race ready at Hockenheim, a testament to the diligence of the restructured Opel Performance Center squad as the cars were only shaken down at the Colmar test track on the Thursday before the race. The race weekend started well, with Manuel Reuter fourth fastest in testing on Friday in his OPC Team Holzer car, right on the pace of rivals Audi and Mercedes.

A new qualifying format has been introduced this year, and it was Reuter who was the fastest of the Opel racers in the Formula 1-style Super Pole session to line up seventh on the grid, two places ahead of Dumbreck. The race format has also changed for 2003, with an extended race distance featuring two mandatory pitstops. Further encouragement was shown when Dumbreck was fifth fastest in the warm-up session on the morning of the race.

Just as the race started, a rain shower soaked the track and sent the cars into the pits for wet weather tyres early on. Some great pitwork from the Opel crew got Scheider up to sixth after his stop, with Reuter in eighth and Dumbreck 10th. The rain had already claimed Alain Menu (OPC Team Holzer), who spun at the final corner and dropped towards the back of the field.

Scheider was delayed in a clash with Audi's Karl Wendlinger, who pushed Timo off the track and dropped the young German down to eighth. Dumbreck picked up the Opel baton, and carved his way through to run as high as fifth place. The track then dried, causing another round of pitstops, but Dumbreck kept up his excellent pace to take a sixth place finish on his first start for the manufacturer.

"I am definitely very happy with this result," said Dumbreck. "It's great to be back in the points with Opel and my new team Phoenix. Bearing in mind that the cars were prepared on such a short timescale, I am sure that Opel are going to be doing some big things in the DTM this year. I made a few small mistakes in the race, but I don't think I could have made fifth place anyway."

Reuter finished just outside the points in ninth, but a stellar drive by DTM debutant Jeroen Bleekemolen netted 14th place in his OPC Euroteam car. His team-mate Joachim Winkelhock was 16th, after suffering a slow pitstop, while Menu recovered from his spin to finish 18th.

"On Thursday, all six of our cars came out of the paintshop," said Opel's motorsport director Volker Strycek. "To have two of them in the points in the opening round is a good performance. Peter Dumbreck showed an incredible pace, and I am also very happy that a young driver like Jeroen Bleekemolen made no mistakes on his DTM debut."

He added: "None of these cars had even seen a drop of rain before, so to have two of them in the points after these tricky conditions is very good indeed. There has been a lot of risk involved in our new strategy for 2003, but I think this shows we are going in the right direction."

-opel-

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Series DTM
Drivers Karl Wendlinger , Peter Dumbreck , Joachim Winkelhock , Manuel Reuter , Timo Scheider , Volker Strycek , Jeroen Bleekemolen , Alain Menu