Lausitz II: Opel race report

Opel scored heavily in the ninth round of the DTM at EuroSpeedway Lausitz, with three of its cars finishing in the top seven positions and all of them leading the race at one point or another. Laurent Aiello finished in a competitive fourth ...

Opel scored heavily in the ninth round of the DTM at EuroSpeedway Lausitz, with three of its cars finishing in the top seven positions and all of them leading the race at one point or another.

Laurent Aiello finished in a competitive fourth position, less than five seconds behind the winner, with Manuel Reuter and Heinz-Harald Frentzen also finishing in the points-paying positions.

Opel already showed its speed in Friday testing, with Marcel Fässler sixth fastest in the opening test on Friday, which was held in soaking wet conditions, a position matched by Frentzen in the second test, which was run on a damp but drying track.

Aiello, who would announce his retirement from racing later in the day, was the star of Saturday morning and the pre-qualifying session. The 36-year-old Frenchman, a winner in touring cars across Europe and a former DTM champion, topped free practice by over three-tenths of a second, and then headed championship protagonist Mattias Ekström at the head of the pre-qualifying times, a session that was also held on a damp but drying track.

Sadly for Laurent, his single-lap Super Pole lap didn't work out, as he lost the "perfect balance" he had previously enjoyed on his Vectra GTS V8 racecar. But to show Opel's strength in depth, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Manuel Reuter stepped up to annex second and third positions on the grid after producing stunning Super Pole laptimes. Aiello would start ninth, with Fässler in 14th after he missed his chance to get into Super Pole by going out too early in the damp but drying pre-qualifying session.

"The track conditions were certainly not optimum in Super Pole," said Frentzen, who has scored two podium finishes for Opel already this year. "I did not expect my time to give me a place on the front row, because I expected the track to get quicker for those who ran after me."

Reuter added: "There was still some damp patches when I went out, so I expected to be only seventh or eighth. Third is a great result for me, and means everything is possible for the race from there."

Opel's motorsport chief Volker Strycek said: "I am really proud of my team; this is a great day for us and it has put a big smile on my face. We performed well in all the sessions this weekend, and brought this form into the qualifying session. We worked very hard to get this kind of result, and now we need to optimise the car for the race. We know we can produce a strong result if things go our way."

Opel made a fantastic start to the race, with Reuter hitting the front initially after a brilliant start before Frentzen grabbed the lead on the inside of Turn 1. Aiello made a steady start, aware that he didn't want to get involved in the title fight between Gary Paffett and Ekström just ahead of him, and so remained in ninth.

Frentzen led for the first 18 laps until the first mandatory pitstops, while Reuter stayed out a lap later and also led. The long first stint meant that those who had pitted early for fresh rubber jumped ahead of them, however, so Frentzen rejoined in fifth, just behind Aiello, whose earlier stop lifted him up to fourth. Reuter was now down in seventh.

Aiello took the lead between laps 25 and 27 as the second cycle of pitstops began, and Frentzen and Reuter also hit the front again on successive laps before their second stops. Aiello was now in hot pursuit of third-placed Kristensen, but despite setting some great laptimes could not catch the seven-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner by the end of the race. Reuter finished fifth with Frentzen seventh after a late collision with Jean Alesi's Mercedes caused him to spin. Fässler was a first lap retirement after he collided with the Mercedes of Stefan Mücke.

"It was a good race for me, considering I started ninth on the grid," said Aiello. "The car was very fast in the first stint, and I caught my team-mates who started at the front of the grid before the first pitstops, and I had a good second stint too. It was a hard fight with Tom at the end, but my rear tyres began to start sliding, so there was nothing I could do."

Strycek said: "We changed our strategy to a long first stint, but it was difficult to judge exactly where we were against the cars that had pitted early. The track temperatures played a big role, and meant that fresh tyres were a big advantage, so we lost our early lead. But I'm happy with the result of having three cars in the top seven places. Laurent had the pace of the leaders throughout the race, and we hope to continue this form to the next race at Istanbul."


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Series DTM
Drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Jean Alesi , Laurent Aiello , Marcel Fassler , Manuel Reuter , Mattias Ekström , Volker Strycek , Gary Paffett , Stefan Mücke