First victory for Swiss Marcel Fässler, championship remains open
Last year's winner Marcel Fässler (AMG-Mercedes CLK) won the exciting eighth round of the DTM at the A1-Ring in Austria, just ahead of his fellow-Mercedes-driver Bernd Schneider, who had been on his rear bumper for almost the entire duration of the race. However, Fässler succeeded in a dominant way to turn his pole-position into his first victory of the season. Third place went to Mercedes-youngster Christijan Albers from The Netherlands. Reigning champion Laurent Aiello finished fourth with the Abt-Audi TT-R ahead of his team-mate Mattias Ekström.
Schneider extended his championship lead to 57 points, Albers is following suit with 54. With his victory, Fässler managed to reduce his gap from eleven to nine points. Aiello has 37 points in fourth place of the championship standings. The last race of the DTM at the A1-Ring, that will be completely rebuilt from October onwards, attracted 60,000 spectators throughout the race-weekend, almost twice as much as last year.
In the hot first lap of the race, four drivers were unfortunately thrown out of the race because of an accident: Christian Abt (Abt-Audi), Jean Alesi (Mercedes-Benz) as well as the two Opel-drivers Peter Dumbreck and Timo Scheider. The race was neutralised behind the safety car up to the sixth lap.
Winner Fässler: "I had to do everything to hold off Bernd"
"The race was incredibly hard, I had to do everything to hold off Bernd Schneider," said winner Marcel Fässler. "In the process, I got a flat spot under braking and I got some problems with the brake balance. But eventually, I made it -- also thanks to my HWA-team, that helped me with a sensationally quick pit stop."
Motorsport director Norbert Haug praised the 27-year old Swiss: "Anyone who withstands the pressure of somebody like Bernd Schneider for almost 40 laps, has everything it takes to become a really big one."
Three times' Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda, who visited the DTM at the A1-Ring by invitation from Mercedes-Benz, was really impressed: "The battle between Fässler and Schneider was breath-taking until the end. Motor racing can't be better. Formula 1 can learn a lot from the DTM, because here, the fan gets more value for money. That is also the future for Formula 1."
Laurent Aiello: "I have pushed, but that was all I could to today"
"I am a little bit disappointed about the result," said champion Laurent Aiello, "because after this morning's warm-up, I had justified hopes for a better result. I have pushed, but that was all I could do today, there was no way to beat Marcel and Bernd."
Team principal Hans-Jürgen Abt was delighted: "With Laurent in fourth place, Mattias Ekström in fifth and Martin Tomczyk in eight, we have three drivers in the points. That is a good team result. And I am convinced that the track characteristics of Zandvoort in a fortnight suit us a little bit more than those of the A1-Ring. Then, we would like to continue our success from the last race at the Nürburgring where Laurent has won."
Alain Menu: "I am satisfied with my result"
"I am satisfied with my result," Alain Menu summed up after finishing as best-placed Opel-driver in seventh position. "Because of the crash at the start, I backed off and then I was last. The fact that I could still make it all the way up to seventh shows that for my Opel-colleague Peter Dumbreck, a podium place would have been possible, had he not been involved in the accident."
Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek said: "Of course, losing the two best drivers on the first corner is dramatic. Next to Peter, Timo Scheider was also out of the race, because some debris had damaged the cooler of his Astra. After the good times in warm-up, we were very confident. From that point of view, seventh place is not what we had hoped for, but given the fact that Alain has made up from last to seventh place, it is a remarkable performance."
Strycek regretted the departure from the up-and downhill track in Styria: "Too bad, that the A1-Ring will no longer be on the calendar for the time being", Strycek said. "The atmosphere is always great, the races are exciting and the great spectator interest shows that we have been doing a good job with the DTM."