Cliff-hanger finish between Carlsen and Watt Former Formula 3000 star Watt closed the gap to reigning champion Carlsen The 2001 version of the Danish Touringcar Championship will not be decided until the final round of the series in October, ...
Cliff-hanger finish between Carlsen and Watt
Former Formula 3000 star Watt closed the gap to reigning champion Carlsen The 2001 version of the Danish Touringcar Championship will not be decided until the final round of the series in October, following this weekend's double-header at Jyllands-Ringen when former Formula 3000 star Jason Watt closed the gap to reigning champion Michael Carlsen to a mere five points. Watt dominated the qualification race and final of round 6, but in round 7 he stalled at the start of the qualification race and then spent the rest of the day fighting back to second place in the final, while Carlsen took a win and a fourth place in the two heats of round 7.
It was 1999 champion Jesper Sylvest who had qualified on pole position, and it was also the
Citroën Xsara driver who made the best start to lead the qualification race of round 6 from the Statoil 306 pair of Jason Watt and Jan Magnussen, Team Brask driver Gunnar Kristensen and Michael Carlsen. Following a couple of laps Watt started putting pressure on Sylvest, trying in vain to sneak by the white and red Citroën. At the beginning of lap 5, however, Sylvest almost lost control of his car at the end of the straight, and in an instant both Watt and Magnussen went by.
"I braked a little bit too much, and then I had to drive a more defensive line than usually. Subsequently I lost the rear-end, but luckily I managed to get through the corner," Sylvest explained. The Citroën driver tried to put pressure on the leading 306 pair, but in the end he had to drop back into third place ahead of Carlsen who had fought his way past Gunnar Kristensen in the opening stages.
For the final it was Watt and Magnussen who led away with Sylvest in third place ahead of Brask 406 Coupé driver Casper Elgaard who was under immense pressure from teammate Gunnar Kristensen. However, the latter was soon passed by Michael Carlsen, and now the reigning champion - despite a hefty 80 kg ballast - started attacking Elgaard, whom he passed on lap five.
At the front Magnussen was clearly faster than Watt, whom he pushed but never tried to pass in earnest, the pair split by two tenths at the chequered flag.
"Jan is my team mate, and before the race we had agreed that we would not drive the doors off each other, and that would also have been absolutely stupid in the situation," Watt explained. As rival Carlsen finished fourth in the final, the pair now found themselves equal on points before the qualification race of round 7, which was run in wet conditions.
For this race Magnussen was on pole position with Watt alongside him, but when the lights turned green the latter made a mess of his start, almost stalling in the process and seeing two thirds of the entire field passing him. Instead Magnussen led from Carlsen, Sylvest and Kristensen, but at the start of lap two a safety car was sent out, as Welshman Julian Westwood and BMW 320i driver Mike Legarth had gone of in the tricky conditions, theirs cars being stuck in the gravel close to the race line.
At the start of lap 4 the safety car went back into the pit, and it looked as if Jan Magnussen would drive away from the opposition. However, at the start of lap six he carried too much speed into the first corner and went off the tarmac and into the gravel instead, where he was stuck. This handed the lead to Carlsen with Jesper Sylvest, Carsten Leveau, youngster Martin Jensen and Casper Elgaard in the following positions. Elgaard was really the fastest man in the field now, and one by one he passed Jensen and Leveau, closing right unto the tail of Sylvest, whom he could not get past. Fellow Team Brask driver Kent Bo Lauridsen was also on the move. Having started the qualification race from the last row of the grid, as his race engine had blown during practice, he had steadily been making progress, taking tenth place.
At the start of the final for round 7 it was now Michael Carlsen's turn to mess up the start from pole, almost stalling his car as Watt had done previously. Again it was Jesper Sylvest who led in his Citroën Xsara from Casper Elgaard, Carsten Leveau, Martin Jensen and Gunnar Kristensen. But the best opening lap was made by Lauridsen who climbed from tenth to fourth place. On lap two he went by teammate Leveau, and one lap later there was contact between Lauridsen and Elgaard, who along with Jensen also got a stop-and-go penalty for a jumped start.
Lauridsen now closed the gap to Sylvest, and on lap five he went past him into the lead. Further down the field Jason Watt and Michael Carlsen were making up lost ground, Watt being 10th and Carlsen 17th at the start of lap two. With his 80 kg ballast it was more difficult for Carlsen to progress, while Watt was finding things more easy with 40 kg in his Peugeot 306 GTI. At the start of lap five he was up into fourth place, and he now demoted Michael Schröter and then Jesper Sylvest, the pair swopping positions later on.
Another driver on the move was Julian Westwood, who had shown his potential during the wet morning warm up. In his yellow Renault Megane Estate the Welshman had fought his way up to fourth place, but as he had been a bit rough on Volvo driver Jens Andersen in the process, he was handed a 10 sec penalty, which eventually dropped him to seventh.
At the front Watt was closing the gap to Lauridsen, but never made any attempts to pass him.
"Running closely behind Kent Bo, I had virtually no vision, and risking 15 points would really be stupid, as I had seen in the qualication race what could happen. So I opted to play safe," Watt said after the race.
Michael Schröter took third place behind race-winner Lauridsen and Watt, while Michael Carlsen's hard earned fourth place gave him a lead of five points to Watt before the final round of the Danish Touringcar Championship, which will take place on October 7th.