Friday practice: Smokin' Jo tails Merc

Mercedes filled out the top three spots after Friday's pair of free practice sessions for Sunday's Norsisring DTM races. But Jo Winkelhock - a winner at the Nuremberg street circuit 12 months ago - gave Opel major cause for optimism after setting the fourth best time, just 0.199s behind pace-setter Bernd Schneider

Friday practice: Smokin' Jo tails Merc

Air temperatures nudged 30 degrees as the DTM field dialed itself in on the 1.5-mile circuit, which consists of high-speed straights, two hairpins and a second gear chicane - a real challenge for optimising set-ups.

DTM points-leader Schneider left it until the final seconds of the session before banging in his quick time of 50.516s. Before that, Marcel Tiemann and Patrick Huisman had both briefly held the top slot in their CLKs, but it was Opel Team Holzer driver Winkelhock's last-minute flying lap that caused the biggest surprise.

After a disastrous start to the season, Opel has worked relentlessly to cure the handling and balance problems afflicting the Astra V8 fleet. The Sachsenring last month provided the first rays of hope, but the blue riband Norisring event was always Opel sports boss Volker Strycek's real target for a return to competitiveness. It's early in the weekend yet, but he must be feeling hopeful.

Huisman clung on to second at the end of the second 90-minute session, with Marcel Fassler putting his Mercedes third, 0.062s ahead of Smokin Jo.

Tiemann, still substituting for the injured Bernd Maylander, clung on for fifth, ahead of Timo Scheider's Holzer-run Opel and the British Mercedes duo of Peter Dumbreck and Darren Turner in seventh and eighth.

After finishing one-two in the opening session, Audi decided to keep its powder relatively dry, with Christian Abt the best of the quartet in ninth, ahead of Fassler's team mate Uwe Alzen in 10th. The top 10 was covered by just 0.425s.

Laurent Aiello's pre-lunch time was enough to give him 13th overall. The Frenchman is back on the DTM beat after missing the Sachsenring to drive for Audi in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Reigning BTCC champion Alain Menu didn't have the best of days, finishing 21st overall - faster only than Opel privateer Peter Mamerow. Fresh from a positive FIA GT outing with Prodrive's Ferrari 550, the Swiss failed to get off to a positive start after a helmet delivery mix-up saw the Opel Euroteam driver running with the helmet of Yves Olivier.




Bernd Schneider, 2001 D2 Mercedes CLK, 50.516s
Patrick Huisman, 2001 Eschmann-Manthey Mercedes CLK, 50.529s
Marcel Fassler, 2001 Warsteiner Mercedes CLK, 50.653s
Joachim Winkelhock, 2001 Holzer Opel Astra Coupe, 50.715s
Marcel Tiemann, 2001 Eschmann-Manthey Mercedes CLK, 50.734s
Timo Scheider, 2001 Holzer Opel Astra Coupe, 50.767s
Peter Dumbreck, 2001 D2 Mercedes CLK, 50.814s
Darren Turner, 2000 Rosberg Mercedes CLK, 50.830s
Christian Abt, 2001 Abt Sportsline Audi TT-R 50.867s
Uwe Alzen, , 2001 Warsteiner Mercedes CLK, 50.941s
Manuel Reuter, 2001 Phoenix Opel Astra Coupe, 50.945s
Michael Bartels, 2001 Holzer Opel Astra Coupe, 50.975s
Laurent Aiello, 2001 Abt Sportsline Audi TT-R, 50.977s
Tomas Jager, 2000 Persson Mercedes CLK, 50.986s
Christijan Albers, 2000 Persson Mercedes CLK, 51.177ss
David Saelens, 2000 Rosberg Mercedes CLK, 51.288s
Yves Olivier, 2000 Phoenix Opel Astra Coupe, 51.323s
Hubert Haupt, 2000 Euroteam Opel Astra Coupe, 51.383s
Mattias Ekstrom, 2001 Abt Sportsline Audi TT-R, 51.452s
Martin Tomczyk, 2001 Abt Sportsline Audi TT-R, 51.567s
Alain Menu, 2001 Euroteam Opel Astra Coupe, 51.699s
Peter Mamerow, 2000 Mamerow Opel Astra Coupe, 52.500s



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