DTM hits jewel in the crown

After the first two rounds of this year's all-new DTM series, Mercedes looked to have things firmly under control, having taken convincing one-twos in both races at Hockenheim. At rounds three and four, however, the tide changed and the Opels seized the upper hand, with Manuel Reuter scoring two victories and Jo Winkelhock close behind with two second places

DTM hits jewel in the crown

Reuter now heads to the jewel in the DTM crown at the Norisring as joint championship leader with Bernd Schneider. The characteristics of the Opel Astra Coupes are such that the car is said to be better suited to the quicker, low-downforce circuits. The GM marque should therefore continue to have the upper hand at the 1.4-mile street course, with its flat-out blasts past the tribunes which were originally built for Adolf Hitler's Nuremberg rallies, and its pair of hairpins.

The former ITC champion was suitably reticent about his chances: "You can´t predict anything in the new DTM," said Reuter. "Just anything can happen in this series, from the first to the last row on the grid."

The top 15 drivers on the grid at Oschersleben were all covered by just one second - a gap which is expected to decrease at the Norisring. The racing becomes increasingly tough with the cars being so close, but the nature of the circuit will also make the race extremely demanding for the drivers.

"Accelerating from first to sixth gear, and braking from 160 to 30 mph for the two hairpins is very hard for the cars and the drivers," explained Opel Technical Director Donatus Wichelhaus, "and there are a lot of bumps."

Both Opel and Mercedes will be eager to win this race, as both have thus far dominated a race meet a piece. Maintaining an early advantage is crucial as Mercedes try to recapture the form of Hockenheim and Opel attempt to maintain the form of Oshersleben. Opel racing manager, Volker Strycek knows the importance of avoiding complacency.

"The wins at Oschersleben were a great experience," said Strycek, "but there is no way we can relax. We are thoroughly preparing ourselves for the Norisring. This championship is so competitive that you can't slow down. It is an open fight between Mercedes and Opel, and Audi will certainly be getting closer."

Regardless of the result, the sense of occasion of the race is just as important. According to Opel works-driver Uwe Alzen: "The Norisring is the German Monaco."

The circuit is steeped in history and with the large concrete stands and the unique feel of the paddock at the Dutzenditch lake, the race should be the highlight of the DTM calendar both on and off the track.

DTM Championship standings after four of 18 rounds.

Pos Driver Team Points
=1 M Reuter Opel Pheonix 52
=1 B Schneider AMG-Mercedes 52
3 M Fassler AMG-Mercedes 44
4 J Winkelhock Opel Holzer 37
5 T Scheider Opel Holzer 32
6 P Dumbreck Persson-Mercedes 24
7 T Jäger AMG-Mercedes 20
=8 M Bartels Opel Pheonix 15
=8 E Helary Opel Holzer 15
10 M Tiemann Persson-Mercedes 13

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