ETCC: Oschersleben: Round six preview

LG Super Racing Weekend Round 6 - Oschersleben (Germany) - 12th - 14th July 2002 Ten days after the Swedish crowds braved the rain at the Scandinavian Raceway in Anderstorp to watch the fifth round of the LG Super Racing Weekend series, the...

LG Super Racing Weekend Round 6 - Oschersleben (Germany) - 12th - 14th July 2002

Ten days after the Swedish crowds braved the rain at the Scandinavian Raceway in Anderstorp to watch the fifth round of the LG Super Racing Weekend series, the teams and drivers will be meeting up again in Germany, at the Oschersleben Motopark, near the town of Magdeburg. With half of the season over, having provided many wonderful races and thrilling on-track action, the title battles in all the Championships and series are still wide open, with another five weekends of excellent racing action in prospect.

This will be the first visit of the FIA European Touring Car Championship to the modern German circuit, and its configuration is unknown to many of the drivers. However, the very first FIA European Touring Car race was held in Germany, at the Nürburgring Nordschleife in June 1963, and it has continued to visit the country on many occasions during its long history, including last year's Nürburgring round. From a total of 25 German European Touring Car rounds, German manufacturers have won 17, with 10 wins for BMW.

The track is relatively short, tight and twisting, and relatively technical. The stadium layout means that it is very good for spectators. However, for the drivers, it can be rather tiring, as there are no long straights, and many corners, meaning that there is no time to relax. The weather is the unknown factor; conditions cooler than Jarama, but warmer and drier than Anderstorp, would be perfect.


After Volvo's home round in Anderstorp, the FIA European Touring Car Championship moves to Germany and it will be BMW's turn to race at home, during the Championship's first visit to the Oschersleben Motopark. The two 50-km races, rounds 11 and 12 of the 2002 season, will see an array of new technical and sporting rules come into force, with changes to the engine speed, the basic weight of the cars, and with penalty weight being applied for the first time. Following the first win of the season for BMW Team Deutschland's Jörg Müller, BMW will be hoping to further increase their points score. The local stars will not only include Jörg and Dirk Müller with their Schnitzer Motorsport-run BMW 320i cars, but also newcomer Thomas Klenke, who will make his FIA ETCC debut at the wheel of a Hotfiel Sport Ford Focus ST170.


Following the decisions taken by the FIA Motor Sport World Council on June 26th, sporting and technical rule changes will be enforced in the FIA European Touring Car Championship's next meeting in Oschersleben, Germany, on July 13th and 14th. On the technical side, the new minimum weight for all the cars will be 1155 kg, driver included (instead of the previous limits of 1140 kg for front-wheel drive cars and 1170 kg for rear-wheel drive cars), while the general limit of 8500 rpm will be amended to 8500 for the 4-cylinder engines (e.g.: Alfa Romeo, Honda, Nissan and newcomer Ford), 8750 for the 5-cylinder engines (e.g. Volvo) and 9000 for the 6-cylinder engines (e.g. BMW). On the sporting side, according to the results obtained in the previous meeting at Anderstorp, the following handicap weights will be imposed: 30 kg to Jörg Müller, BMW Team Deutschland (who scored a total of 13 points in the two Swedish races), 20 kg to Nicola Larini, Gta Racing Team Nordauto (12 points), 10 kg to Rickard Rydell, Volvo S60 Racing Team (10 points). Therefore, Jörg Müller's BMW 320i will weigh 1185 kg, Larini's Alfa Romeo 156 Gta 1175 kg and Rydell's Volvo S60 1165 kg. Current Championship leader Fabrizio Giovanardi's car, as well as all the other competitors', will stay at 1155 kg. These handicap weights will be scratched after the meeting in Oschersleben and recalculated for the following one in Spa, according to the results obtained in the two races on the German track.

NO WORRIES FOR GIOVANARDI (1st in the Drivers Championship, 81 points)
Despite leaving Anderstorp without a win for the first time this season, Fabrizio Giovanardi is still leading the Championship with 81 points, 17 points ahead of his Gta Racing Team Nordauto team-mate Nicola Larini. "The most important thing is that I am 48 points ahead of Jörg and Dirk Müller, which means I am still confident of becoming champion. Until now I could aim for a win in every race; with the rule changes, the worst that could happen would be to fight for podium positions", Giovanardi said. In Oschersleben the Italian driver will not carry any handicap weight on board his Alfa Romeo 156 Gta. "My car will be 15 kg heavier, due to the changes to the technical regulations. I do not think this will make a lot of difference to the balance. However, I expect the BMW cars will be more competitive as they will have 15 kg less and 500 revs more engine speed. Certainly, if I am forced to carry an extra 30 kg, my car might suffer under braking and from front tyre wear. But if this happens it will mean I have won more races, and therefore I would not mind the ballast!" Before leaving for Germany, Gta Racing Team Nordauto will spend some time at Alfa Romeo's proving ground in Balocco, testing new technical solutions following the rule changes.

OSCHERSLEBEN TURNING POINT FOR LARINI (2nd in the Drivers Championship, 64 points)
Nicola Larini had a good weekend in Anderstorp, where he won Race One, his second consecutive success after previously claiming victory in Jarama's second race. "But I have a bitter taste in my mouth, because I was in a position to win the second race too. And that would have been a big boost for my chances in the Championship, considering that I was faster than Fabrizio over the whole weekend," said Larini. As a result of the 12 points scored in the two Swedish races, Larini will receive 20 kg handicap weight. "Added to the 15 kg for all front-wheel drive cars, my car will be 35 kg heavier than it was until now. This should not change the car's handling very much, but we will definitely lose acceleration out of the corners; to compensate, we will be forced to reduce the angle of the rear wing, which might make our car less stable. I reckon that the second half of the season could be totally different, because we will suffer from having the same weight as the BMW cars and we will also continue to struggle at the start, when even a front row grid position would not be enough to keep the BMW drivers behind us. We still have to see how much BMW and Volvo will gain in horsepower after the engine rule changes. Luckily we still have a good margin in the points, but if we will have five or six BMW cars ahead in every race, the season will get very hard for us."

J. MÜLLER: NEW RULES MEANS MORE WINNERS (joint 3rd in the Drivers Championship, 33 points)
In Anderstorp Jörg Müller finally managed to bring a halt to Alfa Romeo's run of nine consecutive wins. Considering the rule changes, the German driver will be one of the men to watch in Oschersleben. "Obviously I hope to repeat my Swedish win. I like Oschersleben, I claimed pole position in the 1998 FIA GT Championship's opening round for Porsche and I consider it to be a BMW track. Not only because it is in Germany, but because is twisty and the straight is not very long. I am very happy with the rule changes, which should boost our performances. Due to the results in Anderstorp I will carry 30 kg of success ballast on my car, but I think that BMW, Alfa Romeo and Volvo will be equally competitive," said Jörg. Less weight and more engine speed should mean a big leap forward for BMW. "We are definitely hoping for an improvement as we will also have some chassis changes. But I believe that in terms of the title fight, this has all arrived too late for us. The Alfa drivers are very consistent and should easily manage to stay in the points. We will be aiming to win races, but in my view the rule changes will result in a number of different winners in the second half of the season. Among them there will be our BMW colleagues driving for other teams, like Gené, Ekblom, Kox and Coronel. They will receive the same improvements as us because BMW's policy is to put customers level with the factory teams. And I like it, it is very fair".

D. MÜLLER: THE BEST TRACK FOR BMW (joint 3rd in the Drivers Championship, 33 points)
Race One in Anderstorp was the first time this season that BMW Team Deutschland driver Dirk Müller failed to score points, when he went off following a collision with Giovanardi. In the second race Dirk was forced to start at the back of the grid, recovering to sixth. "It was a very bad weekend for me, but I hope that from now everything will be different. Jörg's win in Anderstorp was due to pure luck. Apparently both Alfa Romeo and Volvo struggled to find the right set-up in the changeable weather, while Giovanardi and Larini dropped back at the start of Race 2 while avoiding an accident. Everything worked in Jörg's favour. But hopefully the Alfa domination will come to a real end in Oschersleben." Because of the rule changes, the BMW cars will be lighter and their engines will have higher revs. "For sure we will be more competitive than before. I think that 500 more revs engine speed will mean only a few extra horsepower, but we will benefit from a wider output range. Added to the new weights, this should result in better driveability, which will not make much difference in qualifying, but will be important in the races." Will the Oschersleben track suit BMW? "I think it is the best track in the whole Championship from our point of view. I am really looking forward to this event, because it's the best opportunity we have and I would really like to score my first win!"

RYDELL: ANDERSTORP WAS OUR LAST CHANCE (5th in the Drivers Championship, 24 points)
Rickard Rydell and his Prodrive-built Volvo S60 were very close to the top in Anderstorp. Second in qualifying, only 0.096 seconds behind Larini's pole position, the Swede led Race 2 until three corners before the end, only to finish second behind Jörg Müller. "I was really disappointed, because I really wanted to win on Volvo's home track. I tried everything, but there was no way to keep Müller behind as his BMW was faster in cornering than my car. It's a shame, because I am afraid that was our last chance to win," Rydell said, adding. "The changes to the technical regulations are definitely not good for us. We have been working since the beginning of the season to close the gap to Alfa Romeo, and now that we were almost there, we will find ourselves behind five or six BMW cars. The new rules will give them a big advantage: at least half a second per lap, three tenths of which are due to the weight." Volvo will also benefit from higher engine speeds: "Yes, but it is impossible to adapt our car to these new specs for Oschersleben. Prodrive technicians have to build new camshafts and gear ratios and we also have to test new engine mapping. We will race in Germany with the very same specifications we had in Anderstorp and I hope we will receive the improvements in time for Spa. We definitely need to have them before Pergusa, because the Sicilian track is quite fast and you need all the horsepower you can find".

The Oschersleben event will mark the first participation of a Ford car in the FIA European Touring Car Championship since 1988, when the Sierra RS500 was the car to beat. Team Hotfiel Sport will enter a Focus ST170, driven by Thomas Klenke. "We have been waiting for this moment since before the beginning of the season, when we saw the Schnitzer BMW cars testing in Oschersleben. We had built a Focus ST170 partly complying with the Super 2000 specs for the Nürburgring 24 Hours and we are now working hard to upgrade it to the full FIA European Touring Car Championship specs. I know that our car is good on engine, gearbox and suspension, but the aerodynamics package is the latest addition and we have not had enough time to test it in a wind tunnel," said team principal Hans Hotfiel. The team is currently fighting for the title in the German DTC for Super Production cars. "We will have a very busy month, with two DTC races, as well as Oschersleben and Spa. However, both Ford and the team are really looking forward to this opportunity and if we can prove that the car has potential, we will work to join the championship for the next season. Ford Motorsport technical manager Eberhard Braun will be following the races from our pit in Oschersleben. Obviously it will not be easy, but I hope that we can break into the top ten". The team's second driver, Patrick Bernhardt, will drive in Spa, while Klenke has been selected for Oschersleben, as he has won two DTC races there. "I am very happy, because I followed the races on television and I think that it's a fantastic championship, one where Ford has to be," Klenke said. "I know that we are good enough to accept such a challenge. I don't know how good we can be now compared to the regular competitors, but racing in Oschersleben and Spa is very important for us and we will do our best to make a good impression." Klenke is currently second in the DTC, with two race wins out of three. Because the Ford Focus ST170 is slightly shorter than the 4.20 metres minimum car length required by the Super 2000 rules, it needed to receive a special derogation, undersigned by all the teams competing in the Championship. Therefore, although its drivers will be eligible to score points in the Drivers Championship, the Focus will not be eligible to score for Ford in the Manufacturers Championship.

During the first race in Anderstorp, the CiBiEmme Honda Civic Type-R of Salvatore Tavano showed a big improvement in performance. The young Italian driver clocked the fifth fastest time of 1:53.020, six tenths of a second slower than the race's fastest lap set by Fabrizio Giovanardi at 1:52.446, but one tenth faster than race winner Nicola Larini's best (1:53.161). "I was really impressed by the car's big leap in terms of performance. Considering that the team crew had to work in a hurry to fit a new engine with new wiring and new electronics and also some new chassis and suspension parts, the results is even more impressive," said Tavano, who did not take the start in Race 2 after the suspension collapsed in the formation lap. "It was a trivial failure that occurred to one of the new parts. The welded joint between two different materials was not executed in the proper way; it held in Race 1 because the track's grip was reduced by the damp asphalt, but as soon as the track dried and the grip improved, the welding collapsed. It's a shame, because already in the practice I had the feeling that something was wrong in the suspension and we spent Saturday night looking for it. Then we discovered that one of the dampers was not properly adjusted, we thought that was the problem and stopped searching. All considered I feel really confident now. The work the team is doing is beginning to pay off and we are heading in the right direction. I hope that from Oschersleben we can go for the points."

Contrary to previous announcements, Sweden-based Flash Engineering will not take part in the Oschersleben event. The third Volvo S60 that was driven by Jens Edman in Anderstorp, and which suffered from a number of technical problems, will not be available. "Prodrive needed the car back to replace that of James Hanson that was destroyed in the huge crash he had in the second race in Anderstorp," explained team principal and driver Jan 'Flash' Nilsson, who was due to take the wheel in Oschersleben. But this will not be the end of Flash Engineering participation in this year's Championship. "Definitely not. As far as I know I will race in Spa and then again in Donington Park," Nilsson revealed.


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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Dirk Müller , Jorg Muller , Rickard Rydell , Salvatore Tavano , Eberhard Braun , Nicola Larini , Thomas Klenke , Patrick Bernhardt , Jens Edman