Oschersleben: Opel race report

More points for Opel in front of record Oschersleben crowd Opel netted a double points haul as the DTM touring car series raced in front of a record 88,000 crowd at Oschersleben in eastern Germany on Sunday. Both its former champion Laurent...

More points for Opel in front of record Oschersleben crowd

Opel netted a double points haul as the DTM touring car series raced in front of a record 88,000 crowd at Oschersleben in eastern Germany on Sunday. Both its former champion Laurent Aiello and young gun Marcel Fässler made the points-paying positions.

Renowned as the most technically difficult track on the DTM calendar, the 3.6-kilometre Oschersleben proved tough for Opel to tame in the Friday test sessions. Heinz-Harald Frentzen was the fastest Vectra driver in ninth in the opening one-and-a-half hour period, but Laurent Aiello's highest-placed Opel was only 13th in the second session.

Aiello had the misfortune of missing the first session when his flight from Paris to Berlin was cancelled on Thursday due to the storms in the French capital that left parts of the city underwater. He only arrived in Germany at 9am on Friday, and arrived at the circuit just after the first session had concluded.

Suitably fired up about his misfortune, Aiello was the fastest Opel again in Saturday morning's free practice session, and carried this speed through to qualifying, where an excellent lap netted him a strong sixth on the grid. He was unable to better this in the single-lap Super Pole that should have followed the session due to more rain storms which caused flash floods at the circuit on Saturday lunchtime. Aiello quipped: "After the storms I sat through on Thursday, I was used to this situation delaying me!"

On a more serious note, Aiello thanked his Team OPC for a vital set-up change that transformed his Vectra GTS racecar into a top six performer: "The car was not too good on the first run. We went out on slicks, which was the right choice, but we still had a wet set-up, as we were expecting it to rain again. We changed the car, and it came really good. The car has been consistent this weekend, so I'm hopeful of moving even further towards the front."

Of his former champion driver, Opel team chief Volker Strycek said: "Laurent did a really superb job to help us claim a top six position on the grid. This is quite okay for us, as we only had four cars to try different strategies in qualifying, because we just didn't know what the weather would do next."

Marcel Fässler would start 12th, with Frentzen 14th after an alarming accident on the exit of the infamous 170kph 'Triple' bend. He spun onto the run-off, damaging the floor of his car, and was fortunate the car didn't roll over as it bounced across the sodden earth. Amazingly, the former F1 star managed to drive his battered car back to the pitlane. Manuel Reuter would start 18th after setting the pace in the early part of the session, but the rain he required to keep him there never came.

Aiello made a brilliant start to the race, jumping from sixth position to fourth at the first corner. The Frenchman kept reigning champion Mattias Ekstrom of Audi behind him for eight laps until the Swede just managed to squeeze ahead of him at the first turn. Laurent's cause was not helped by the fact his right-side door had come open, which was disrupting the airflow to the rear wing and "causing massive oversteer in left-hand bends. It was difficult to keep the car on the track!" he said.

Aiello overshot his pit box on his first stop, as he was distracted by talking to his crew on the radio to make sure they tried to close the door. Nevertheless, he was back on track and looking good for a strong points finish, backed up by Fässler, who had taken a different pit strategy and come in much earlier.

After getting stuck in traffic during his middle stint, Aiello's pace in the latter stages was a match for the leaders, and although he closed right up on the battle for fourth position as the race reached its conclusion, he was unable to finish any higher than seventh, with Fässler backing him up in eighth.

"I'm a little frustrated at the result because I knew it could have been so much better," said Aiello. "All weekend I have been on the pace, which I was very happy with. If it wasn't for a few small things, like the open door or overshooting my pit, I could have finished much higher. It is encouraging for the next races, though."

Team boss Strycek added: "The result is okay that we scored some points, although it's a shame we could not finish higher than seventh and eighth, because the potential was there. It was a fantastic race weekend for the DTM, with some great fights through the field and a big crowd. Now we look forward to more of the same at Norisring."


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About this article
Series DTM
Drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Laurent Aiello , Marcel Fassler , Manuel Reuter , Volker Strycek