Race reports Weather: Warm, overcast Bernd Schneider was the surprise winner of race one after claiming the lead on lap 21, having previously run in third place behind Bernd Schneider and Nicola Larini. It was Kurt Thiim, who grabbed the...
Weather: Warm, overcast
Bernd Schneider was the surprise winner of race one after claiming the lead on lap 21, having previously run in third place behind Bernd Schneider and Nicola Larini.
It was Kurt Thiim, who grabbed the lead at the start, whn he beat pole man Larini into the first corner. For 20 laps Thiim fended off a fierce challenge from Larini. So intense was their battle, that Schneider gradually caught them, whilst Mercedes youngster Magnussen, running fourth, also latched onto them. Creating so a four car train. A slight mistake by Larini on the 20th lap saw the Italian quickly lose places to Schneider and Magnussen, then, on the following lap, Schneider took the lead. Magnussen also got by Thiim, but Larini's attempt to overtake the yellow Mercedes saw this one off the track briefly, dropping the Dane down to sixth. Thiim: "Why does bad luck always hit me? This time I was hit by Nicola Larini, who sent me off into the grass. Its a shame."
Fourth and fifth place went to the young chargers Giancarlo Fisichella (Alfa Romeo) and Dario Franchitti, having completed the opening lap in nineth and tenth places. Fisichella: I had a very bad start, but the car was very competitive. Its a pity, that it is so difficult to overtake on this track. Now I'm going to push very hard in race two." Reigning champion Klaus Ludwig ran in fourth place in the opening laps, lost position to Magnussen in lap four. Nevertheless he could follow the four leading cars until lap 17 when his progress was halted by a puncture. "I made a very good start and I donþt know where Schneider came from to overtake me. After this it was a good race and I got nearer and nearer to the leading group until the puncture put me out of contention." Ludwig re-joined and finished a lowly 14th. Jorg van Ommen's team chief misunderstood a warning flag and called his driver in for a stop and go penalty - the equally confused race officials gave him one anyway!
Following his scooter accident at the Norisring six weeks ago, when he broke his leg, Jan Magnussen put in an impressive performance to lead the second race from start to finish, leading home the Mercedes trio of Bernd Schneider and Dario Franchitti. "The leg is not fully recovered yet and I received some physio between the two races which undoubtedly helped. To win was a fantastic feeling for me." Magnussen made a fantastic start from the second row and was never headed.
Behind, Schneider held second from Larini and Thim. Larini pushed the German very hard and overtook him one lap later. Unfortunately for the Italian his race was to come to an end on lap 12, just as he had Magnussen in his sights, with rear differential problems. "I had a real chance to win this race and it was very disappointing for me to retire. I had problems in the first race with the ABS - this was fixed, but then the differential problems put an end to my afternoon. Nevertheless, the performance of the car was fantastic." Larini's retirement promoted Schneider to second with team-mate Franchitti in third. The young British driver still has an outside chance of beating Schneider to the title, "but it means that I will have to kidnap him for the rest of the season and offer some financial incentive to the other drivers if I am going to do it", said Franchitti afterwards. This result for Mercedes confirmed the Stuttgart manufacturer as Champions of the innaugural ITC.
Stefano Modena (fifth) scored the best result in this race for Alfa Romeo whilst Klaus Ludwig was the leading Opel driver in eighth place. "After my differential problems in race one, which could not be repaired for race two, I am really happy with this result", said Modena.