The German Touring Car Masters (DTM) at the Sachsenring supplied plenty of thrills and drama, but no points for Opel's top scorer in the season so far, Manuel Reuter (Opel Team Phoenix). In race one on the undulating east German circuit, Reuter...
The German Touring Car Masters (DTM) at the Sachsenring supplied plenty of thrills and drama, but no points for Opel's top scorer in the season so far, Manuel Reuter (Opel Team Phoenix).
In race one on the undulating east German circuit, Reuter had the perfect chance to narrow the three-point margin to championship leader Bernd Schneider after converting an excellent third on the grid into third in the race. But with just three corners to go, Reuter's Opel V8 Coupe was pitched into the gravel after suffering a front right puncture.
"Today was really hard for us," said Reuter. "In race one, I just drove at my own pace. When I saw Bernd Schneider in my mirror, I increased my speed a little and you know the rest of the story...
"I have to thank everybody for repairing my car between the two races - even the Opel Team Holzer guys were helping out - but it's just a pity that this superb performance by everybody didn't get rewarded with the points it deserved."
Eric Helary was Opel's top finisher (Opel Team Holzer) in race one, the Frenchman taking a season best fourth position.
Jo Winkelhock (Opel Team Holzer), a race-winner at the Norisring four weeks ago, had shown equally strongly in the early laps. Winkelhock was running fourth, on the pace of the leaders, but also suffered a right front puncture that ended his race.
Opel had taken four of the top six positions in qualifying and Uwe Alzen (Opel Team Holzer) had also seemed certain of a strong finish before he too suffered a right front puncture. The race was won by the Mercedes of Klaus Ludwig, who also suffered a right front puncture - but luckily for him it was on his slowdown lap after taking the chequered flag.
"For Manuel Reuter and for Opel, losing a podium place just one kilometre from the finish and after such a strong run is an absolute disaster," said Opel racing director Volker Strycek. "But we followed the instructions of our tyre manufacturer to the letter and we checked our tyres constantly during testing, practice and qualifying. This is not an Opel problem, but it is something that we will investigate along with our tyre supplier."
With race two reduced from its scheduled 30 laps to 24 in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the race one tyre problems, Helary made a superb start to slot into third, ahead of Bernd Schneider's Mercedes. Helary easily kept pace with the leaders and looked set for his first podium of the season, but with 20 laps gone, he too suffered a right front puncture that put him into the gravel.
"I had a little problem with the tyre," he said, "but I don't really mind, because that was such a fun race. Opel is a strong team, we like to fight, and with our engineers and our tyre supplier, I know we'll find out what our small problem was."
Michael Bartels (Opel Team Phoenix) put in a tenacious drive in the second race to finish sixth, ahead of Timo Scheider (Opel Team Holzer). After starting from the back, Winkelhock and Reuter battled through to take 10th and 11th respectively.
Stefano Modena (Opel Euroteam) qualified an excellent sixth, but was pushed out of race one by Pedro Lamy's Mercedes. He had moved into the top 10 in the second race, but spun into the gravel. Christian Menzel (Opel Team Irmscher) took ninth place and his first ever DTM points in the first race and 13th in the second.
Despite his disappointment, Reuter heads to the next round of the DTM at the Nurburgring on August 20 still holding second overall in the points, with Winkelhock fourth overall.