Lausitz: Opel race report

Opel makes progress at Lausitz Opel scored its second top-five finish of the DTM season at EuroSpeedway Lausitz on Sunday, but the excellent possibilities for an even better result fell by the wayside after an incident-packed race in front of a...

Opel makes progress at Lausitz

Opel scored its second top-five finish of the DTM season at EuroSpeedway Lausitz on Sunday, but the excellent possibilities for an even better result fell by the wayside after an incident-packed race in front of a huge crowd.

The weekend started well, with Scotland's Peter Dumbreck immediately on the pace during Friday's test sessions. He ended the day second quickest overall, just 0.025 secs slower than the fastest Mercedes of reigning champion Bernd Schneider. Laurent Aiello and Timo Scheider were fourth and fifth fastest respectively.

The fine conditions of Friday gave way to heavy rain just before qualifying, which put the pressure on drivers and teams alike. OPC squads Phoenix and Holzer rose to the challenge, and four Vectras made it into the Top 10 Super Pole session. It would have been five, but Aiello's time was controversially cancelled after a contentious yellow flag decision by the stewards, dropping him back to 12th.

Dumbreck was once again the top Opel driver in his Phoenix-run Vectra, grabbing fourth position on the grid after a superbly judged Super Pole lap in the tricky conditions, which were constantly drying and prevented him improving on his position from the first session. Scheider qualified sixth, with Manuel Reuter and Marcel Fässler eighth and ninth respectively.

"I'm very happy with this performance, to have four cars in the top 10 is very good," said Opel's motorsport chief Volker Strycek. "It was an exciting session, more exciting even than Formula 1, and this whole weekend has seen a better performance from us. We are especially happy that more of our cars were closer together at the front."

Dumbreck said: "I always go well here, and we made some good improvements to the car. I used rain tyres on my lap, and in hindsight maybe we could have gone for slicks, but it would have been a big risk. I'll take fourth position on the grid with open arms, because I think we can do well in the race as well."

Unfortunately, the start was a disastrous one for Opel. After a collision between the Mercedes of Gary Paffett and Jean Alesi, Dumbreck was knocked wide on to the grass at the first corner, and Scheider was forced to spin in avoidance and rejoin at the tail of the field. That meant the leading Opel was Reuter, who held fifth position at the end of the opening lap. From 12th on the grid, Aiello was already up to eighth with Dumbreck dropping to ninth and Scheider to 16th after their problems.

After his delay, Scheider stayed out for a long first run and caught the race leaders after their first pitstops. Timo was able to comfortably keep up and even close on the frontrunners before his stop, and this pace allowed him to jump up to a staggering eighth position by the halfway point.

Aiello was running at a similar pace, and he climbed to fifth place after his second pitstop, a position he was able to hold until the finish. Fässler also achieved a points-scoring finish in eighth place, just ahead of Reuter.

"I'm very happy to finish in the top five having started from so far back," said Aiello, the 2002 DTM champion. "If I had a better starting position, with the car I had today I feel it would have been possible to win today - the car was that good. It was a shame about the yellow flag situation in qualifying, because I didn't see one. I had a perfectly balanced racecar today."

His colleagues didn't fare so well, though. Scheider would have finished in the points, but he was penalised with a 50-second time penalty after a late collision with the Audi of Martin Tomczyk. A similar incident with Markus Winkelhock's Mercedes meant Dumbreck was forced to observe a drive-through penalty, and he finished down in 12th. Heinz-Harald Frentzen was an early retirement due to accident damage sustained in the frantic opening lap exchanges. He said: "It was just bad luck, but that's racing."

Strycek had mixed feelings about the results: "Today we showed we have the possibility to run at the front, as shown by Laurent and Timo, but I am not happy that we were only fifth on the result sheet. Admittedly, we had four cars in the top 10, but results at the front of the field are what counts. The start was disappointing; Timo was turned around and took Peter with him. Our strategy allowed Timo to get back into the points from last position, so it was a shame what happened to him at the end, but Laurent's speed was also a great motivation for us."

Nürburgring 24 Hours

Next weekend Opel will return to the Nürburgring 24 Hours to attempt to retain its title after last year's much-acclaimed victory on the infamous Nordschleife track. Two Astra V8 Coupes will contest the event, masterminded by OPC Team Phoenix, which is based just a few hundred metres from the famous venue in the Eifel mountains. Last year's winning line-up of Volker Strycek, Timo Scheider, Manuel Reuter and test driver Marcel Tiemann will try to 'do the double' this year. The sister car will be driven by Strycek, Christian Menzel, Peter Dumbreck and Marcel Fassler.


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Series DTM
Drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Jean Alesi , Marcel Tiemann , Laurent Aiello , Marcel Fassler , Peter Dumbreck , Martin Tomczyk , Bernd Schneider , Manuel Reuter , Timo Scheider , Volker Strycek , Gary Paffett , Christian Menzel