DTM

A1-Ring: Qualifying report

Aiello sets fastest qualifying time, Schneider looming in third Extremely hot, extremely exciting: that was the qualifying for the eighth round of the DTM at the A1-Ring in Spielberg, Austria. At a track temperature of 35 degrees and heat like...

Aiello sets fastest qualifying time, Schneider looming in third

Extremely hot, extremely exciting: that was the qualifying for the eighth round of the DTM at the A1-Ring in Spielberg, Austria. At a track temperature of 35 degrees and heat like in summer, DTM points leader Laurent Aiello (Abt-Audi TT-R) claimed first place on the grid only two minutes before the end of the session.

His team-mate Mattias Ekström, who had been on top of the time sheets for quite a long time, will be starting alongside him from the first grid row. The second row has been locked out completely by Mercedes-Benz, with reigning champion Bernd Schneider in third from ex-F1-star Jean Alesi.

The best-placed Opel-driver, Swiss Alain Menu with the Opel Astra V8 Coupé, was separated by only 0,06 seconds from Alesi, yet he is still only sixth on the grid. The extremely close competition in the DTM is also clearly demonstrated by the fact that 17 cars qualified within only 1.1 seconds.

Pole-sitter Aiello: "Make it through the first corner safely and in first place."

"I am extremely happy, but also a bit surprised by my fastest time, because Bernd Schneider was very strong both in the test and in free practice", Laurent Aiello said." It was very hard and I had to give everything. Now, I just hope to make it through the first corner safely and in first place -- the rest is racing."

For the first corner, there will be some opposition. "Maximum attack" is the charging motto for fourth-placed Jean Alesi: "I will try to make another super start again, and challenge my fellow-Frenchman Aiello for the lead."

When Laurent Aiello scores two points more than Bernd Schneider at the A1-Ring round, then there will be a handing-over of the championship title between the two rivals in Austria. The Frenchman was accordingly cool and relaxed. He pronounced his motto for the start in German: "Nichts wie weg," which means:" Up and away".

Mercedes-Benz motorsport director Haug:" We will not give up"

Mercedes-Benz motorsport director Norbert Haug also showed himself competitive: "Nothing has been decided today. Anyone who thinks, that we are done with this season and are giving up, is wrong."

Schneider, who won the title last year at the same venue, said after qualifying: "Today, we got the maximum out of it. There is nothing more that could be done. And I think, then you have to be able to stand up and pay tribute to your opponents accordingly." Moreover, the three times champion would also "be proud of second place in such a hard-fought championship." First of all, however, one thing is important for him: "As long as there is a theoretical chance, the title is not yet lost."

With Menu, Reuter and Winkelhock, three Opels in the top ten

"Like at the Nürburgring already, we lacked the necessary bit of luck today that one needs to be really in front," fastest Opel-driver Alain Menu said. He will be starting from the third row on the grid with the Opel Astra V8 Coupé of the Euroteam. Both Menu himself, the 1996 ITC-champion, Manuel Reuter, and Finn JJ Lehto were underway to a quick lap time just before the end of the session, as yellow flags were being waved because one of the drivers had come off the track.

This prevented all three of them from improving their fastest lap times, while Aiello for instance had the bit of luck to have established his best time already half a minute before the yellow-flag-phase. "Tomorrow, I want to score points," Alain Menu said. "And not just one."

-dtm-

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Series DTM
Drivers Jean Alesi , Laurent Aiello , Bernd Schneider , Manuel Reuter , Norbert Haug , Mattias Ekström , Alain Menu , JJ Lehto