ETCC: Oschersleben: Rounds 17, 18 preview

After the more leisurely summer period, the 2004 season of the LG Super Racing Weekend has picked up speed again, and only ten days after the Imola heatwave, the teams will be setting up the paddock at the German circuit of Oschersleben, near ...

After the more leisurely summer period, the 2004 season of the LG Super Racing Weekend has picked up speed again, and only ten days after the Imola heatwave, the teams will be setting up the paddock at the German circuit of Oschersleben, near Magdeburg. With the end of the season approaching fast, the title fights are closing up, and a weekend of exciting racing should be on the cards. The first two titles were awarded in Imola, with BMS Scuderia Italia claiming the GT Teams title for the second year in a row, while young American Scott Speed won the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup title, just in time to celebrate at his team's home circuit. Oschersleben has become a regular event on the LG Super Racing Weekend calendar since 2002. The circuit, which was opened in late 1997, is technical, tight and winding, and is generally popular with the teams.

The 17th and 18th rounds of the FIA European Touring Car Championship, which will take place on the twisty German track, are expected to favour the BMW men. The Oschersleben Motopark suits the 320i cars extremely well, as proved by the fact that they have won all four FIA ETCC rounds held there so far: two wins for Dirk Muller in 2002, one apiece for Jorg Muller and Priaulx in 2003. On the other hand, this is traditionally a difficult track for the Alfa Romeo 156. SEAT is also looking forward to Oschersleben, because last year on this circuit the Toledo Cupra claimed its first podium result: a third place for Frank Diefenbacher.

Considering the excellent progress made by the Spanish car, there are concrete possibilites to see a SEAT driver on the winning podium. With the title battle closer than ever, and four drivers -- Dirk Muller, Gabriele Tarquini, Jorg Muller and Andy Priaulx -- still with excellent hopes of winning -- the end of the season promises to be thrilling. Once again, as in Spa, the FIA ETCC will welcome the cars from the DMSB Produktionswagen Meisterschaft , increasing the grid to over 30 cars.

Oschersleben will also see the final two rounds of the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup, with new Champion Scott Speed racing 'at home' for his Oschersleben Motopark team, as well as the Mini Cup.

CIRCUIT STARS VS FOOTBALL STARS

An LG Super Racing Weekend football team will be in action on Thursday evening, playing a friendly match against the Motopark All Stars, a team made up of players from FC Magdeburg, some former national and international stars and people from the Motopark. The match will take place at the Grossalsleben stadium, with the kickoff at 18:00. Two thirty-minute halves will be played. For those interested in watching, shuttles will leave the Motopark from 17:00. The SRW All Stars will include players such as reigning GT Champion Matteo Bobbi, Michael Bartels, Jan Vonka, Alexei Vasiliev, Walter Lechner Jr, Bert Longin, Nicolaj Fomenko, Sascha Maassen, Philipp Peter and Mini Challenge driver Peter Enders.

OSCHERSLEBEN ACCORDING TO BMW TEAM DEUTSCHLAND'S DIRK MULLER

Current leader of the FIA European Touring Car Championship at the wheel of his BMW Team Deutschland BMW 320i, Dirk Muller, 28-year old from Burbak, won both races at Oschersleben in 2002, while on the continental series' first visit to the Motopark.

"This track is quite tighty and twisty, and you don't get top speeds here. It is important to have a good traction out of the long corners; there are five of them that are very similar, the only difference is the way they turn. You have to focus on these corners, trying to keep the speed from their exit throughout the following straights.

You need to have a good car under braking. Normally in the simulation the weight handicap is a factor, however we saw last year that Jorg was on pole despite 30 kg of ballast. On this particular track, if you have a very good balance, the extra weight does not affect the performance very much.

I think we will see two very close races. SEAT will definitely be up there, and I also think that Alfa Romeo will be very strong, because we saw in Imola that they are good in accelerating out of the corners. The qualifying session will be a crucial moment. Even last year it was not easy to find a clear lap; now, with 30 cars on the track, it will be even more difficult."

Circuit length : 3667 m
Location : 30 km southwest of Magdeburg

Directions : from A2 Hanover-Berlin motorway, take the Eilsleben exit then follow the signs for Oschersleben. The track is on the left after the village of Oschersleben

Further to Alfa Romeo's double victory in Imola, the FIA European Touring Car Championship is now heading to Oschersleben with the title fight completely open. Reigning champion Gabriele Tarquini, who had arrived in Imola fourth in the Drivers' Championship, 20 points behind the leader, left the Italian racetrack in second position, having reduced his gap to only 7 points.

BMW Team Deutschland's Dirk Muller is still leading the classification, with 93 points, while his team-mate Jorg Muller and BMW Team Great Britain's Andy Priaulx are joint in third position, one point behind Tarquini. With four drivers covered by eight points, and 40 points still to be awarded in the two race meetings left, the championship is due to offer a breathtaking final rush, like last year. The weight handicaps will be distributed among most of the works drivers. Tarquini is on the maximum (40 kg), while Dirk has 30 and Giovanardi 20; Gene (10), Priaulx and Jorg (5 each) have lighter cars. This leaves very good chances to those who do not carry any ballast, like SEAT's Rydell and Diefenbacher, BMW Team Italy-Spain's Garcia and Zanardi, and AutoDelta's Augusto Farfus and James Thompson.

With the 14th and 15th rounds of the German DMSB Produktionswagen Meisterschaft to be run within the FIA ETCC races, the whole field is due to reach the 30 cars.

WELCOME BACK, DPWM DRIVERS!
After the successful experiment in Spa, the DMSB Produktionswagen Meisterschaft will be racing together with the FIA ETCC again. The German championship is also likely to offer a great show, with six drivers still involved in the title fight. The series is heading to Lausitz Eurospeedway to run its 12th and 13th rounds this Sunday with four BMW drivers on top of the points: Schubert Motors' Claudia Hurtgen (240), her team-mate Thomas Winkelhock (231, the winner of both DPWM races in Spa), and Wiechers Sport's Marc Hennerici (226) and Diego Romanini (208). Michael Funke (Hotfiel Sport's Ford Focus) and Franz Engstler (Engstler's Motorsport's BMW) are only a further few points adrift.

JAMES THOMPSON REJOINS AUTODELTA
Current BTCC leader James Thompson will be back at the wheel of the fourth Alfa Romeo works car. The Englishman had missed Imola due to a clash with the British race meeting in Snetterton, after which he took the championship lead. AutoDelta is counting on him -- as well as on Giovanardi and Farfus -- to help Tarquini in the title fight. After the official announcement that he will be leaving Vauxhall at the end of the BTCC season, Thompson, who had won Donington Race 1 on his first FIA ETCC appearance of the year, is likely to be confirmed as part of the AutoDelta team for 2005.

BMW DRIVERS WANT TO MAKE UP FOR IMOLA
Imola proved to be tough for BMW. During the whole weekend the German cars were unable to represent a serious threat for Alfa Romeo. Furthermore, two of its leading drivers -- Jorg Muller and Andy Priaulx -- were both involved in collisions and did not finish the second race. This helped Dirk Muller to slightly increase his leading margin in the Drivers' Championship. "Jorg and Andy still have really good chances to become Champions, because they are just one point behind Tarquini. Therefore, BMW is not going to change its strategy for the rest of the season," Dirk commented. On their home ground, the BMW men are now eager to give Alfa Romeo a taste of its own medicine.

OSCHERSLEBEN IS SEAT'S BEST TRACK
Last year's FIA ETCC meeting in Oschersleben was a day to remember for SEAT Sport. Frank Diefenbacher finished the first race in sixth position, then he chased the leading BMWs in Race 2, coming home third and giving SEAT its first podium result in the Championship. Since then, the Toledo Cupra cars have improved substantially, claiming two pole positions, two fastest laps, one second place and three third places so far in the current season. "We just need to score our first win to seal this great season," said Jordi Gene, SEAT Sport's best-placed driver in the championship (8th, two points behind Farfus). "Our car proved competitive on most of the tracks, but Oschersleben remains the best for us, and it is also our best chance for a win."

PEUGEOT: JAN MAGNUSSEN IS BACK
Jan Magnussen was forced to miss Imola because of a clash with the Danish Grand Prix at Jyllands Ringen. In the event that was valid as 11th and 12th rounds of the Danish Touring Car Championship, Magnussen finished third in Race 1, then inherited victory in race 2 when BMW's Casper Elgaard was penalized because his car exceeded the noise limits. Back in the FIA ETCC at the wheel of his Peugeot 307, Magnussen rejoins Italian Sandro Sardelli, the only driver representing Peugeot Sport Engineering in Imola.

JAS AND BALZAN REAPING THE FRUIT
The race in Imola was a great reward for the efforts that JAS Motorsport and Alessandro Balzan put in developing the new Honda Accord. Since its race debut at Magny-Cours, the Japanese car has consistently improved in performances, and finally claimed at Imola its first championship points, as well as its first win in the Independents' Trophy. Not so lucky were the other Honda cars, GR Asia's Civics. An engine problem occurred to Simon Harrison will force again the Hong Kong-based team to run only the Englishman's car in Oschersleben; his team-mate Toni Ruokonen is due to be back in Dubai. Similar problems will prevent RS-Line from taking part in their home race with their Ford Focus cars; they also will be back for the final meeting.

CORONEL: A LITTE HELP FROM A FRIEND
FIA ETCC Independent champion Duncan Huisman will rejoin Carly Motors in Oschersleben, in order to help his long time team-mate and friend Tom Coronel to clinch the second consecutive Independents' Trophy for the team. Coronel saw his Trophy lead cut by eight points in Imola. The Carly Motors' driver, whose car was damaged in the pile-up caused by Zanardi in the second race, is now 29 points ahead of JAS Motorsport's Alessandro Balzan. Oregon Team's Salvatore Tavano -- also involved in Race 2 crash -- remains 34 points behind, with only theoretical chances of claiming the title.

D'ASTE AND PROTEAM TO MISS OSCHERSLEBEN
The collision occurred during the Imola's second race at the Variante Bassa, has resulted in a frantic race to repair the cars involved. BMW Team Italy-Spain and Oregon Team have managed to rebuild Alessandro Zanardi's BMW 320i and Salvatore Tavano's Alfa Romeo 156 Gta respectively. In the process, it was discovered that a suspension had collapsed on Zanardi's car, causing him to spin and collect Tavano. The latter was released from the circuit's medical centre after a check-up, having suffered no consequences although he was aching everywhere. As for Stefano D'Aste's BMW, the third car involved, it was so extensively damaged that Proteam Motorsport have withdrawn it from the next meeting.

-fia/etcc-

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Series General
Drivers Andy Priaulx , Dirk Müller , Jan Magnussen , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Sascha Maassen , Claudia Hurtgen , Matteo Bobbi , Scott Speed , James Thompson , Frank Diefenbacher , Duncan Huisman , Marc Hennerici , Simon Harrison , Bert Longin , Alessandro Balzan , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Salvatore Tavano , Stefano D'Aste , Toni Ruokonen , Jan Vonka , Michael Funke , Philipp Peter , Peter Enders
Teams Proteam Motorsport