First podium finish for Opel and Alain Menu Alain Menu delivered Opel's first podium finish in round four of the 2002 DTM series at Sachsenring today. The Swiss ace, twice a champion in the British Touring Car Championship, proved both his and...
First podium finish for Opel and Alain Menu
Alain Menu delivered Opel's first podium finish in round four of the 2002 DTM series at Sachsenring today. The Swiss ace, twice a champion in the British Touring Car Championship, proved both his and Opel's ability to challenge for honours in Europe's fastest saloon car championship with an excellent third place finish in the feature race, finishing second in the earlier qualifying race.
Menu was pipped to pole position by series leader Laurent Aiello of Abt-Audi in the dying moments of qualifying on Saturday by just two-hundredths of a second. "If only the session was 43 minutes long and not 45, I would have been on pole," joked Alain afterwards.
His performance was backed up by Opel Euroteam colleague Yves Olivier, who qualified a best-ever fourth. Other Opels in the top 10 included Joachim Winkelhock, seventh in his Team Phoenix Astra V8 Coupe, and Timo Scheider, who lined up 10th in his Holzer-run car.
Menu grabbed the lead at the start of the qualification race, only for Aiello to repass him on the exit of the first bend. Aiello went on to win, with Menu finishing a strong second, while other Opels on the move were Winkelhock, who climbed through the pack to finish fifth, ahead of Olivier and Scheider in sixth and seventh respectively.
Although he tried to get past Aiello once more at the first corner, Menu had to give best to his fellow former BTCC champion, and spent the first half of the race fighting with reigning DTM champion Bernd Schneider of Mercedes. Schneider had a quicker pitstop and nipped past Menu who safely cruised to third position.
"This podium finish proves that Opel is competitive in the DTM," said Menu. "I'm very happy for Opel, the team and myself. We made a slight set-up change to the car for the main race and it wasn't quite as nice as it was in the first one.
"We have been competitive since the first round of the championship, but luck has been against us. If we carry on like we are doing, I think we'll win a race very soon. I'm looking forward to the next event."
Winkelhock and Scheider made it three Astra V8 Coupes in the top six, and it could have been even better for Opel had Michael Bartels not lost time in the pits when his right-rear wheel refused to come off. When he rejoined, the former F1 racer set the fastest lap of the race and said afterwards: "The car was so easy to drive that I could have done another 15 laps, no problem!"
Opel's motorsport chief Volker Strycek was delighted with the first podium finish of the season for one of his drivers, and just reward for Menu who had been robbed of a second place finish at Donington Park in England two weeks ago.
"We have got the result we have been looking for," said Strycek. "We told Alain to keep pace and make sure he finished third after he lost out to Schneider during the pit stops. We have put in a lot of hard work, and our drivers did a great job today. Menu and Winkelhock were running at the front, Scheider made up a lot of places and Bartels set the fastest lap."
"With a result like this, which has given us such joy, I can finally say that Opel is back. We are sure that we can continue like this," he added.
Of the other Opel pilots, Olivier claimed sixth place in the qualification race before finishing 12th in the feature race after being pushed off the track on the opening laps by one of his rivals. Donington pole position man Manuel Reuter was forced out of the race when a tyre blew-out.