Abt driver Mattias Ekström on the podium at DTM-final
With a veritable motorsport thriller and another podium finish, Abt Sportsline has bowed out of the DTM-season. In front of the absolute dream crowd of 105,000 spectators, Mattias Ekström finished second and only just missed out on victory by the tiny margin of two tenths of a second. Laurent Aiello completed the strong team performance by catching up from 15th to fifth place. Peter Terting caused a slight sensation: the team's junior, only 19 years old, scored his first point in eighth place.
In the season final, the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) has also shown motorsport at its best. Once again, Abt driver Mattias Ekström was one of the main actors, showing the spectators on the grand stands and in front of the television screens a spirited drive and a great performance. The 25-year old Swede, who had started from pole-position, was four seconds behind Jean Alesi, seemingly chanceless, after the two mandatory pit stops. But lap by lap, the shooting star of the DTM closed up, had closed the gap within a few laps and kept on attacking the eventual winner until the finish line of the Motodrom at Hockenheim.
Once again, Laurent Aiello showed his competitive spirit as well. The champion of last year, who gave his championship title to his successor Bernd Schneider at the final, made up from 15th place on the grid to fifth place at the finish in an error-free race. For the entire final third of the race, he was only centimetres behind Peter Dumbreck, before the chequered flag saved the best-placed Opel-driver from the attacks by the Frenchman.
Next to Alesi and champion Schneider, the final had another secret winner: Peter Terting. The youngest-ever DTM-driver had got himself a good position to start from with eleventh place on Saturday and crowned his learning year on Sunday with his first championship point. Thus, the team Abt Sportsline succeeded in getting all its six drivers in the final points' standings of the DTM. On Sunday, Christian Abt only just missed out on adding more points to his total score as he finished ninth.
Martin Tomczyk and Karl Wendlinger had an unlucky race day. 21-year old Tomczyk from Rosenheim had a good start from fourth place, but was hit by an opponent on lap five and thus lost all the chances of a podium finish. For Karl Wendlinger, 17th place was all that was left after problems during the first pit stop and a drive-through penalty.
In the final standings of the DTM 2003, Mattias Ekström is best-placed Abt driver in fourth place. Only five points behind him, Laurent Aiello is sixth.
Quotes after the race
Mattias Ekström (2nd place):
"I am not entirely happy with my second place, because today, a win would have been possible. My car was perfect, the team worked perfectly in the pits. Unfortunately, I had some bad luck during my first pit stop. I was held up as I wanted to drive off, therefore Jean (Alesi) could pass me. I closed up to him again, but he just didn't make any mistakes and gave me no opportunity to overtake him."
Laurent Aiello (5th place):
"Of course, I would have liked to bow out of my championship year with a podium finish or a victory, but from 15th on the grid, I got the maximum out of it. Congratulations to Mercedes-Benz and Bernd (Schneider), there was just no way of beating this package this year."
Peter Terting (8th place):
"I am overjoyed, because I exceeded my season goal. In my first DTM-season, I wanted to finish in the top ten, and now, I have even scored a point. Today, my Abt-Audi was perfect. The start wasn't optimal but I could catch up and finally even managed to overtake my boss (Christian Abt). That was a nice race to end the season."
Christian Abt (9th place):
"This season, we have been on the podium ten times and we have been the only ones to beat Mercedes. In such a hard-fought championship like the DTM, something like that is not evident. My race today was okay: a good start, some nice fights and once again in the top ten."
Martin Tomczyk (13th place):
"Unfortunately, Alain Menu hit me at the hairpin, which was why I spun. He apologised to me and took responsibility for the collision, so I am not angry with him. Something like that can happen, but it is too bad, that it hit me. In the first six laps, I could keep the pace of the front runners without any problems, the speed was there."
Karl Wendlinger (17th place):
"Today, my car was very good and so was the start. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of time in the pits and thus a chance of a top ten position. Too bad, I would have liked to continue where I had stopped at Zandvoort, in the points."
Hans-Jürgen Abt (team principal):
"Peter Terting has managed to score points at 19 years. He was harshly criticised after Zandvoort. Today, he has shown what he is up to. Eighth place in this strong field is a great performance, and even more so considering that he is driving a car from last year. With his recovery, Laurent Aiello has proven once more that he is a top driver. And what Matttias Ekström has shown, was excellent."