Norisring: Opel race report

Frentzen in the points for Opel in front of record DTM crowd Heinz-Harald Frentzen scored a sixth place finish to add to Opel's points tally in the 2005 DTM touring car series at the Norisring, the scene of some of its most glorious German...

Frentzen in the points for Opel in front of record DTM crowd

Heinz-Harald Frentzen scored a sixth place finish to add to Opel's points tally in the 2005 DTM touring car series at the Norisring, the scene of some of its most glorious German touring car victories in years gone by. But this time Opel was incredibly unlucky to miss out on taking another win at the Nuremberg street circuit, as Marcel Fässler was forced out while on course to a good result in front of a record DTM crowd of 143,000 people.

Opel's weekend started in strong fashion, with Fässler setting the fastest time in Friday's opening test session and Manuel Reuter, who was third fastest in that, posting the second quickest time in the second one-and-a-half hour period. Reuter was also quick in Saturday's free practice, setting the sixth fastest time, so hopes were high of Opel gaining some top grid positions in qualifying.

Both Reuter and Fässler made it into the top 10 Super Pole session as expected. Although Reuter had the handicap of running first, he produced a flawless lap to take sixth position on the grid. Fässler admitted to making a mistake at the first corner on his single-lap run, but his speed was such that it was still good enough for eighth on the grid.

"From the third and fourth rows of the grid I'm confident that we can achieve a decent result," said Opel's motorsport chief Volker Strycek. "But after we placed second and third in the tests on Friday, we should have expected better results in qualifying than that. It did not help that our cars ran early in the Super Pole, as the track got faster and faster."

Reuter said: "Qualifying was difficult as we took the risk of playing with the tyre pressure to optimise our performance over a single lap. I think it paid off, and was pretty happy with my lap."

Fässler added: "I made a mistake on my single-lap effort, otherwise my position would have been a lot better. Qualifying is always tense, and it is even more so here because the lap times are so close."

Opel's ex-Formula 1 star Heinz-Harald Frentzen just missed out on getting into the Super Pole session and would start 11th. His attempt to slipstream the Audi of Allan McNish did not pay off, as he felt he got too close to the car in front which ruined his lap time: "He did not block me or anything, but these situations are hard to avoid on such a circuit as this."

Laurent Aiello would start last after he was penalised one-second, added to his qualifying time, for a technical infringement concerning brake temperature sensors in testing on Friday. He said: "My result doesn't reflect my true performance here, but at least I was able to get on track early in qualifying and pass some information about conditions on to the rest of the team."

The race was turned on its head by an early Safety Car period, which Opel's strategists read to perfection and brought Fässler and Aiello in straight away. That call effectively put Fässler in the lead, as those who pitted after him would have to rejoin well behind him. When the race restarted, Fässler was running fifth already, just behind Reuter, with all those ahead of him still having to make their first pit stop.

Fässler moved up to third when Reuter pitted and he then overtook ex-F1 star Jean Alesi (Mercedes). Sadly, when a second safety car was required to clean up debris from the crashed Audi of Rinaldo Capello, Fässler went off on the oil that was spread out by the Italian's car and broke the front of his Opel, forcing him out of the race and depriving him from a good result that definitely was within reach.

The next best Opel was now Aiello, who had charged through the field from last on the grid. He was running eighth when he encountered brake trouble that would eventually cause him to retire: "It was just too dangerous to continue. My foot was slipping over the top of the brake pedal because something had broken," he said. Post-race inspection revealed that oil had leaked onto the brake pedal of Aiello's car.

That meant Reuter was the top Opel man, as he was also on a brilliant charge through the field after an early delay that dropped him well out of the top 10. He looked set for the podium, and actually crossed the line in third place on the road, but he received a 30-second time penalty for a collision with erstwhile series leader Mattias Ekstrom on the last lap, dropping him to ninth place.

All that promoted Frentzen, who was delayed in a clash with an opponent at the first corner, to sixth position -- the second time he has scored points in the last three races.

Frentzen said: "I got pushed around in the opening stages, but judging by the spare parts that lay all around the track, I wasn't the only one. From dead last, I gained a lot of places only to lose them again with a chaotic second pitstop. The car had the pace to win today, so it's a shame we didn't get the result we were really looking for."

Strycek echoed his comments, and said: "The whole Opel team was charging and in the middle of the action today. Marcel was running third and looked like he had the right pace and right strategy to win, so it hurts that he wasn't able to do so. He deserved his first win for Opel today."

On the subject of Reuter's penalty which cost his team a podium, Strycek said: "It's disappointing but we have to live with it. It's the last lap and Manuel was racing as hard as he could and these things happen. It's racing."


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Series DTM
Drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Jean Alesi , Rinaldo Capello , Allan McNish , Laurent Aiello , Marcel Fassler , Manuel Reuter , Mattias Ekström , Volker Strycek