Opel show guts but misses out on glory In a thrilling ninth and penultimate round of the DTM at Zandvoort in Holland, Opel came agonisingly close to victory. But for a mistake by his crew at his final pitstop, Timo Scheider was on course for his...
Opel show guts but misses out on glory
In a thrilling ninth and penultimate round of the DTM at Zandvoort in Holland, Opel came agonisingly close to victory. But for a mistake by his crew at his final pitstop, Timo Scheider was on course for his first DTM win but he was forced to retire from the race and accept the commiserations of the 62,000-strong crowd. Opel's best-placed driver across the finish line was Manuel Reuter, who was fourth.
Right from the start of testing on Friday, Opel was showing the way to its opposition. Its Scottish driver Peter Dumbreck, who finished runner-up at Eurospeedway Lausitz in June, set the fastest time of the day in his OPC Team Phoenix Astra V8 Coupe. Alain Menu (OPC Team Holzer) and Scheider backed him up with the third and fourth fastest times respectively, and proved that the manufacturer had turned up well prepared and ready for action.
Opel continued its fine form into qualifying on Saturday, when Scheider scored his first pole position -- Opel's first since Donington Park last year -- with a blistering Super Pole lap of 1m35.336s. It was incredibly close at the top, with just 0.018s covering the top four cars.
Opel had five representatives in the top 10, with Menu, who was fastest in the preceding qualifying session, ending the Super Pole in fifth place, just 0.138 seconds slower than Scheider. Menu's OPC Team Holzer team-mate Reuter was seventh, with Dumbreck eighth ahead of local hero Jeroen Bleekemolen (OPC Euroteam), who lives just a stone's throw away from the Dutch seaside track.
It was Scheider's first ever DTM pole, and he was delighted: 'It's an amazing feeling. I have to say big thanks to Opel and the Phoenix team. We have had some hard times this year, but no-one gives up at Opel and we have continued to make progress with the car. To have five Opels in the top 10 is better than ever before.'
Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek agreed that it was a great day for the Opel team, which proved his squad can beat its rivals from Audi and Mercedes in a straight fight.
'I am really very proud of everyone, my staff did a great job,' said Strycek. 'The new structure at Opel has worked better and better as the season has gone on. It's been a long time since we were on pole, and it's been hard, but I'm incredibly proud of what we have achieved so far.'
Menu, the second highest of the Opel drivers, said: 'I did a great lap in the first session, but I just couldn't repeat it in the Super Pole because I got sideways on the exit of the first corner. I lost a tenth of a second, and it cost me four places. That's how close the DTM is.'
24 year old Timo Scheider made a fantastic start to lead the race, and was locked in a fascinating battle with the Mercedes-Benz of Christijan Albers as he made his final pitstop. His first one has been the third fastest pitstop of the day. But, unfortunately, at the second stop the right-front wheel nut was not attached properly in the rush to get him back out in the lead, and Timo was forced to pull off the racetrack and retire from the race.
Scheider was not the only Opel to suffer dire luck in the race. Menu was on course for a likely third position, but was taken out of the race by the Audi of Peter Terting. Reuter was also in the running for a podium, but six laps before the chequered flag he was passed by Mattias Ekstrom and finished fourth just half a second behind the Audi driver.
DTM rookie Jeroen Bleekemolen was a sensational seventh, delighting his home fans. He made a brillant start to run on fifth position for a while. Finally it looked like he had sixth place already in his books when a puncture on the front-left tyre slowed him down to came in on seventh. The 21 year old Jeroen Bleekemolen enjoyed a pretty good weekend at his home play ground by joining the super pole competition for the second time and catching DTM points for the very first time.
Dumbreck finished tenth after a pitlane collision with Martin Tomczyk's Audi, and Joachim Winkelhock (OPC Euroteam) finished 15th.
'Despite the result, this was an Opel weekend,' said Volker Strycek. 'We were unlucky with Menu, because Peter Terting did not do a good job and caused Menu to crash. Jeroen Bleekemolen did an unbelievably good job, but the hero of the day was Timo Scheider. He could control the gap to Albers and he could have won. It was a big showing from Opel on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It's just a shame we didn't come away with victory.'
Reuter said: 'We were really strong all weekend, but fourth place is not what we expected - we thought we would achieve more. I had problems with blisters on my tyres on my first and third stints, and I just could not hold the Audi back through the slow corners. But I promise we'll keep on fighting to the last lap of the final race.'
The final round of the DTM is held at the German Grand Prix venue of Hockenheim on October 5.