Opel has won the prestigious Nurburgring 24 Hours, run around the famous 14-mile Nordschleife in front of almost 200,000 spectators, scoring a famous victory over strong opposition from factory teams of Audi and BMW. The 500bhp Opel Astra V8...
Opel has won the prestigious Nurburgring 24 Hours, run around the famous 14-mile Nordschleife in front of almost 200,000 spectators, scoring a famous victory over strong opposition from factory teams of Audi and BMW.
The 500bhp Opel Astra V8 Coupe of Manuel Reuter, Timo Scheider, Marcel Tiemann and Volker Strycek won the classic round-the-clock endurance event after a tough battle that raged between them and Abt Sportsline Audi of Karl Wendlinger, Christian Abt, Kris Nissen and Marco Werner. Audi led the race for a couple of hours, Opel for about half of the race. It was Opel's maiden factory-backed attempt at the race and the first time that a new-style DTM car has won the event.
Faultless reliability, mixed with a strong race pace, was always going to be the key to success, and the victorious OPC Team Phoenix Astra ran with barely a problem. The only concern occurred early on Sunday morning, when Strycek briefly went off the road, during which a stone split the alternator belt. The Phoenix mechanics sprung into action and only 15 minutes were lost replacing the component, time regained by some spirited driving which included an amazingly fast lap time of 9m04.446s by Tiemann.
Reuter completed the race to win by 5 laps over the Audi, with the Manthey Racing Porsche in third position another lap down.
"The car ran perfectly," said Strycek, who is also Opel's motorsport director and a former DTM champion. "Everything had to be right to win this race, and it's a very special feeling to do it. We put a lot of effort into the project and did a lot of long distance testing with this car.
"We had a situation after 16 hours where we were just four-tenths of a second behind the Audi, so our strategy was to push," he added. "When the Audi had its first electric problem with four hours to go, it meant we could reduce our pace. A lot of people said the DTM cars would not last the night, so we are pleased to have proved them wrong."
Scheider said: "It is an incredible feeling to win this race, I'm really happy. It is so many times the distance of a normal DTM race, so to have such perfect reliability is really amazing."
Reuter added: "To win this race is so emotional for me, it is better than the two 24 hours of Le Mans I have won before. The fans were wonderful on the last two laps of the race. We have had a difficult time over the past two years, so to win this race proves we are going in the right direction."
For Opel and the four drivers it has been the first victory at the 24 hours Nurburgring while Phoenix Racing made its second win after 2000 when thex did it with a Porsche.
In fact, both Opel Astras were running in the top three when the car of Peter Dumbreck, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Christian Menzel and Strycek was taken out of the race by a backmarker. Bleekemolen was behind the wheel in third position at the time of the accident, which was caused by the Renault Clio. As Bleekemolen was passing the Clio it moved across the track and, despite Jeroen driving on to the grass to try and avoid it, he clipped the left-rear corner of the Astra and sent it spinning into the crash barriers at high speed.
"The racing line was absolutely free," said Bleekemolen, who was uninjured in the heavy impact that severely damaged the car. "I was nearly past him but then I got hit, I just couldn't do anything more to avoid it. Physically I am OK, but I'm very, very sad about what happened. It was a great race and the Astra was superb. It's such a shame but I'm sure I'll be back to try again next year."
His team-mate Dumbreck said: "The race was going so well for us, our pace was just right. The car didn't have a problem since the first moment of practice. Jeroen was so unlucky, there was no way that accident had anything to do with him." The Clio driver later apologised for causing the crash, admitting that it was "an avoidable collision".
The car of Dumbreck, Bleekemolen, Menzel and Strycek started from second spot, the Astra of Reuter, Scheider, Tiemann and Stycek from fourth place of the grid. A total of 210 cars competed in the race on the 25.947 kilometre combination of GP circuit and Nordschleife..
Following its tremendous success at the Nurburgring, Opel will now return its attention to the next round of the DTM at EuroSpeedway Lausitz on June 8.