ETCC: Oschersleben: Race one and two notes

WEATHER: Sunny and hot, with a dry track. BMW's hopes of dethroning Alfa Romeo in the FIA European Touring Car Championship received a big boost today in Oschersleben, when BMW Team Deutschland's Jorg Muller and BMW Team Great Britain's Andy ...

WEATHER: Sunny and hot, with a dry track.

BMW's hopes of dethroning Alfa Romeo in the FIA European Touring Car Championship received a big boost today in Oschersleben, when BMW Team Deutschland's Jorg Muller and BMW Team Great Britain's Andy Priaulx shared the honours, winning the 15th and 16th rounds of the series in front of a crowd of 25,000.

On his way to his fourth win of the season, Jorg Muller led the first race from lights to flag, resisting the pressure from Gabriele Tarquini and Priaulx. The German driver crossed the line with a very narrow margin ahead of the Italian, while the Briton was classified third.

In the second race, shortened by one lap due to a delayed start, Priaulx took the lead from Fabrizio Giovanardi during the fifth lap, and then managed to keep Antonio Garcia behind him until the chequered flag dropped. This was Priaulx's third win of the year. Frank Diefenbacher completed a fantastic race, chasing the leaders and claiming a third position, which was also the first FIA ETCC podium for SEAT Sport. "We are extremely happy," SEAT Sport director Jaime Puig declared. "We did not expect such a result in our first season."

Also during the second race, Tarquini and Jorg Muller fought a tough, but fair, fight for the fourth position. Eventually the German driver edged ahead of the Italian, stealing another valuable point from him.

With four rounds of the Championship to go, and 40 points still to be awarded, the fight for the European crown is still wide open. Jorg Muller stretched his leading margin to 5 points ahead of Priaulx, who is now the closest runner-up. Tarquini moved up to third, but he lost three points from the leader and he is now 11 points adrift. Both the other contenders, Nicola Larini and Dirk Muller, had a very disappointing weekend, and saw their hopes drastically diminished. In the Manufacturers Championship BMW leads Alfa Romeo by 53 points.

Once again the Carly Motors' drivers dominated the Independents Trophy: Tom Coronel won the first race and Duncan Huisman the second; the latter has now a comfortable 28-point lead in the classification.


Gabriele Tarquini dominated the warm up, setting a stunning pace. The Italian driver was the only one able to break the 1:34. barrier during the 15-minute morning session. On his second lap, Tarquini was clocked at 1:33.757; he improved to 1:33.372 on the following lap, and finally he completed his fourth lap in 1:33.535.

Carly Motor's drivers proved to be in a good shape: Duncan Huisman emerged as the fastest of the BMW men, setting the second-fastest time (1:34.064), while his team-mate Tom Coronel was ranked fifth (1:34.252). Andy Priaulx (1:34.075) and Nicola Larini (1:34.161) posted the third and fourth fastest times respectively.

Pole sitter Jorg Muller was classified only 13th, with a time of 1:34.665.


Tarquini's car's front wheels spun at the start, as the BMWs of Jorg Muller, Priaulx, Garcia and Giovanardi dashed to fight for the lead. Ruberti's Alfa stalled on the grid and remained on the spot. During the first lap Giovanardi overtook Garcia for third position, but a while later, Tarquini jumped ahead of both the BMW Team Italy-Spain's drivers and claimed third. Jorg Muller was closely chased by Priaulx and Tarquini. Giovanardi, Garcia, Dirk Muller, Colciago and Larini were fighting for fourth position. On lap 2, Dirk Muller drove wide on the grass at Turn 6 and slipped from sixth to eighth, handing two positions to Colciago and Larini. The BMW driver repeated the same mistake in the same corner two laps later, which demoted him to 11th.

Also on lap 4, Jorg Muller went wide, taking Priaulx, who was stuck on his tail, by surprise. The Briton drove onto the grass and Tarquini managed to slip through, moving up to second. During the fifth lap, Garcia overtook his team-mate Giovanardi for fourth. Colciago and Larini were chasing the 2002 ETCC champion very closely. Coronel was defending his eighth position from the attacks of the SEAT Toledos of Diefenbacher and Gene. Diefenbacher was pushing hard and managed to overtake Coronel on lap 7, moving up to eighth. On lap 8 Stahl retired with engine problems after he went off the track. On lap 9 Colciago got past Giovanardi for fifth. Meanwhile Priaulx and Garcia were closely chasing Tarquini, and this gave Jorg Muller the opportunity to stretch his leading margin. On lap 11 Huber retired, the radiator of his Alfa damaged after going off. Larini was stuck on the tail of Giovanardi's car when, on lap 13, a puncture forced him to the pit. On the same lap the engine of Sardelli's Volvo gave up.

Under the chequered flag, Jorg Muller led Tarquini by 0.7 seconds, while Priaulx finished third from Garcia and Colciago. Diefenbacher claimed a sixth place for SEAT, and also his first points in the Drivers Championship. Coronel was classified seventh, first of the Independent drivers. Giovanardi lost a couple of positions during the last lap and scored the last point.


Four cars were missing from the grid: the three Alfa Romeos of Ruberti, Huber and Stahl, plus Sardelli's Volvo. Coronel held the pole on the reversed grid, but at the end of the warm up lap the Dutchman steered from his starting spot onto the grass. A driveshaft was broken and the race director called a delayed start. The Carly Motors' mechanics worked frantically, and managed to replace the piece, giving Coronel the chance to take the restart from the end of the pit lane.

When the red lights were turned off, Giovanardi jumped into the lead, chased by Priaulx, Garcia, Colciago, Diefenbacher, Jorg Muller, Dirk Muller and Tarquini. Suddenly the fight for the positions turned very tough. Dirk Muller got the worst of a collision with Tarquini and slipped from seventh to tenth. On lap 2 Diefenbacher overtook Colciago for fourth, and closed on the leading trio Giovanardi-Priaulx-Garcia. Jorg Muller, Tarquini and Gene swapped paintwork while battling for sixth position. The Alfa Romeo man proved to be the toughest in the game, and muscled his way ahead of Jorg Muller.

Suddenly, at the end of the fourth lap, Giovanardi opened the door on the pit straight, letting Priaulx and Garcia through. Diefenbacher also slipped in, moving up to third. Tarquini and Jorg Muller overtook Colciago, demoting him to seventh; it was a difficult moment for Colciago, who lost two other places to Dirk Muller and Coronel. However the Italian managed to retake eighth position from the Dutchman. On lap 8, Tarquini and Jorg Muller gained another position by overtaking Giovanardi, who was forced to retire when a tyre exploded, further to contact with Tarquini. During the same lap, Dirk Muller went off when the damaged front spoiler of his car prevented him from steering; Gene, who followed, was taken by surprise and drove wide into the gravel trap. The Spaniard rejoined at the back of the field. On lap 9, in the Sachsen-Anhalt Kurve, Tarquini went wide and was passed by Jorg Muller; but the Italian got ahead again on the straight. Two laps later, in the same corner, Jorg Muller passed again, this time for good. On lap 10 Couto retired with transmission problems.

Eventually Priaulx and Garcia were able to leave Diefenbacher behind; the two BMW drivers finished in that order, while their chaser obtained an invaluable third place for SEAT. Jorg Muller and Tarquini were classified fourth and fifth, with Colciago in sixth. Huisman came home in seventh position, claiming another win in the Independents Trophy. The eighth position and the last point went to Larini. As for Rydell, a last lap puncture demoted him from ninth to 13th.


Jorg MÜLLER, BMW Team Deutschland, 1st in Race 1, 4th in Race 2: "It was a fantastic weekend. With 30 kg of ballast onboard I did not expect to win. The first race was difficult, because my tyres went down in the last four or five laps, and I just tried to keep position. I was lucky that the guys behind me were fighting each other. I was not the fastest in the field, but I was very consistent. The second race was brilliant; I'd like to watch it on TV. We had a lot of fighting, a lot of contact. Fair contact. It was very nice to race against Gabriele (Tarquini). The Championship is not decided at all, but certainly to have two BMWs at the front is good for us."

Andy PRIAULX, BMW Team Great Britain, 3rd in Race 1, 1st in Race 2: "It's great for me to be second in the Championship. This was a BMW circuit and I wanted to be sure that I made it a BMW circuit. I managed to get a couple of good results today, but the next races in Estoril and Monza are going to be very difficult for us. The fight for the Championship is wide open for everybody. I am very disappointed with the first race, because I made a mistake and gave Gabriele (Tarquini) an opportunity to pass me. I'm pleased that my second race has made up for that."

Gabriele TARQUINI, Alfa Romeo Autodelta, 2nd in Race 1, 5th in Race 2: "I lost three points from the leader, but the positive thing is that we have survived a negative track for us. I'm quite happy, because I found a really good set-up, which was also adopted by my team-mates. I'm still alive to fight for the Championship, and the next two circuits should be better for us. Unfortunately I placed the first race in jeopardy, when I had too much wheelspin at the start. I lost more positions than usual. We will look at the data to see where I went wrong."

Nicola LARINI, Alfa Romeo Autodelta, 17th in Race 1, 8th in Race 2: "I knew that this was going to be a difficult weekend, because of the track and the 40 kg ballast. However I was aiming to finish both races in the points. And the first race was going along with my plans. I was in a position to finish fifth, but a puncture on the last-but-one lap spoiled everything. And there was not very much I could do in the second race. Now I'm 16 points behind the leader. It's a lot. I might have a chance only should Jorg Muller hit a negative weekend like the one I had today."

Dirk MÜLLER, BMW Team Deutschland, 9th in Race 1, Dnf in Race 2: "I did not expect to be out of the points twice in my home race. The car was brilliant enough to aim for one win at least. In the first race I twice had a problem with gear shifting, which was unusually hard, and this caused me to drive wide in the same corner. In the second race I got a big hit from behind, and I went off again. My car was damaged, in the radiator, the front spoiler and bumper. After a few laps it was impossible to handle, and I went off. I think this ends my hopes to win the Championship, but I'll do my best to score as many points as I can."

Antonio GARCÍA, BMW Team Italy-Spain, 4th in Race 1, 2nd in Race 2: "In the first race I had a good fight with Giovanardi, Tarquini and Colciago. I easily managed to join the leading quartet, and it was clear that I was faster than them. But I did not want to risk a collision with Priaulx, who was right ahead. I settled in fourth, saving my hopes for the second race. Again I found myself chasing Priaulx. But at the same time I had to defend my position from Diefenbacher. He was closing the gap because I was fighting with Andy, so I stopped attacking and kept the lines for a while. Just the time to build a small margin on him. Then I tried again to put pressure on Andy, but he didn't give up."

Franck DIEFENBACHER, SEAT Sport, 6th in Race 1, 3rd in Race 2: "I pushed at the maximum in the first race, because I wanted to finish in eighth position. In the end I hit the sixth, and this was amazing, unbelievable. We were already very happy, and we did not think to obtain an even better result in the second race. When Giovanardi was passed by Priaulx and Garcia, I told myself that I had to try. I went to the inside, and won the third position. Then I pushed as much as I could to keep in touch with the leaders. However, in the final races, I had the feeling that my car was becoming slippery, so I slowed down a bit to make it to the end, and to save this fantastic third place."

Tom CORONEL, Carly Motors, 7th in Race 1; 12th in Race 2: "I really enjoyed the first race. I fought with the SEATs, managed to win the Independents Trophy's race, and also to score two points for the Championship. I was confident for the second race, as I had gained the right to start from the front row of the reversed grid. Unfortunately a driveshaft collapsed at the end of the warm up lap. The mechanics were fantastic, repairing my car during the delay before the start. And this enabled me to score more points for the Trophy."

Duncan HUISMAN, Carly Motors, 11th in Race 1; 7th in Race 2: "We have hit our goal for the weekend, which was winning both races, and increasing our margin in the Independents Trophy. I was lucky that Ruberti had bad luck, which enabled me to increase my leading margin to 28 points ahead of my team-mate. I have the trophy within reach now."

Sebastian STAHL, Alfa Romeo Autodelta, Dnf in Race 1, Dns in Race 2: : "The car was good and I was not nervous. I took a good start and overtook Sardelli on the second lap. Then I was chasing Couto, who was very fast on the straight. I had to push in the corners to catch him. Probably I pushed too much, and I went off. I managed to rejoin, but something was wrong with the engine, and I was forced to retire."


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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Andy Priaulx , Antonio Garcia , Dirk Müller , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Frank Diefenbacher , Duncan Huisman , Gabriele Tarquini , Nicola Larini , Jaime Puig