Nurburgring: Opel race report

Opel misses out on adding to DTM tally Opel was left frustrated in the seventh round of the DTM at the historic Nürburgring circuit in Germany on Sunday, as circumstances mitigated against it adding to its points tally despite the fact that ...

Opel misses out on adding to DTM tally

Opel was left frustrated in the seventh round of the DTM at the historic Nürburgring circuit in Germany on Sunday, as circumstances mitigated against it adding to its points tally despite the fact that Laurent Aiello started from the top five on the grid. Despite occasional heavy rain showers, the event still attracted 112,000 race fans -- a record crowd for the DTM at the circuit in the Eifel mountains -- to demonstrate the popularity of the pan-European touring car series.

Opel was on the pace of the leaders throughout Friday's three hours of testing, with Marcel Fässler consistently logging top laptimes. He was just 0.032secs slower than Martin Tomczyk's leading Audi in the opening session and third fastest in the second, with OPC team-mate and former Formula 1 star Heinz-Harald Frentzen also in the top 10 in both sessions.

Fässler went one better in Saturday morning's free practice session, the Swiss ace setting the fastest time, 0.025secs quicker than reigning champion Mattias Ekström of Audi. However, Fässler was unable to repeat his stunning form in qualifying, and he missed out on a slot in the top 10 Super Pole session, ironically by the same 0.025 secs he led the field by just a few hours earlier. He would start 12th with the fourth Vectra GTS, of Manuel Reuter, in 16th.

Opel's honour was upheld in Super Pole by Laurent Aiello and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who were seventh and ninth respectively in the pre-qualifying session. Aiello set a solid lap time, including a stunning final sector, which placed him on the third row of the grid in fifth position. Frentzen, meanwhile, dropped a spot to 10th, just missing out on beating Christian Abt's Audi, which finished second in the previous race, by 0.037secs.

"We showed we were on the pace here at the Nürburgring during the practice and test sessions," said Opel's motorsport chief Volker Strycek. "But it was very difficult to understand why the times in the Super Pole were much slower than the previous session. I can live with Laurent's fifth position on the grid and Heinz-Harald's place in the Super Pole. We expected Marcel to perform well too, but he had problems with his set-up and was not able to reproduce the form that meant he was fastest this morning."

Aiello said: "I'm really happy with my position on the grid. I like this circuit and I've enjoyed a lot of success here in previous years. There is always a good atmosphere here and it's a place you can have a lot of fun."

Due to a heavy pre-race rain shower, the start was taken behind the safety car. Aiello was in the thick of the action from the start, running wide at the first corner and losing a place to the Audi of Martin Tomczyk, but gaining it back soon after. He then closed up on the battle between reigning champion Mattias Ekström (Audi) and four-time champ Bernd Schneider (Mercedes), and rose to second when they made early pitstops to switch to slick tyres. When Aiello made his stop on lap 11, however, he dropped to seventh and got stuck in a battle with Tomczyk again.

Aiello's chance of a points finish evaporated during his second mandatory stop, when the air gun for the left-front wheel of his car malfunctioned, and he lost a huge amount of time relative to those around him. Despite his best efforts to catch up, Aiello finished one place out of the points in ninth position, three-seconds behind Jamie Green of Mercedes.

"The first laps were very good and I was in a good position following Schneider and Ekström," said Aiello. "I stayed out one lap too long for my first pitstop, which lost a couple of positions, and then we had the problem with the air gun in the second one. We showed the car was on the pace, and I drove as fast as I could, but ninth was the best we could achieve given the problems."

Frentzen finished 12th after running inside the top 10 in the first part of the race, while Fässler was given a drive-though penalty for an early misunderstanding under the safety car. He would finish 13th, but set some stunning lap times early on. Manuel Reuter finished two laps down in 20th position after he was knocked off the track by the Mercedes of Stefan Mücke.

"Because of the problems with the air gun, the drive-through penalty and a collision there is not much to say about today's race," said Strycek. "We started well, and Laurent was on the pace in the opening stages, but no points is not a good result."


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Series DTM
Drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Laurent Aiello , Marcel Fassler , Martin Tomczyk , Bernd Schneider , Manuel Reuter , Mattias Ekström , Volker Strycek , Stefan Mücke , Jamie Green