10th round DTM Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg, October 3-5, 2003
Title decision in dramatic final and many candidates for race victory
The ingredients for the final round of the 2003 DTM-season at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg, October 3-5, are a guarantee for drama and excitement. First of all because the battle for the championship crown will be decided here -- for the first time in the four year history of the new DTM. And also, because the two rivals for the title, Bernd Schneider and Christijan Albers (both AMG-Mercedes CLK) are separated by only one point.
And finally, because there is a range of other top-class drivers aiming for victory. Like for instance Timo Scheider, who only just missed out on a race win with the Opel Astra V8 Coupé at Zandvoort, without his own fault. Or his fellow Opel-driver Peter Dumbreck, who has been avidly collecting points and has already been on the podium after finishing second at the Lausitzring.
Of course, it is also the goal of Laurent Aiello to bow out of his championship year with a victory with his Abt-Audi TT-R. Aiello's team-mate Mattias Ekström also has his mind set on first place after showing his abilities once again with a sensational recovery in The Netherlands. So the ingredients are right for the final round over 37 laps and 169.238 kilometres at the 4.574 kilometres long Grand Prix-track. The fans know that, too: 45,000 tickets have already been sold prior to the event -- a record.
Schneider or Albers: a generation change in the DTM?
The rivals for the title can hardly be more different: at 39 years, points leader Bernd Schneider is the most successful DTM-driver ever, while 24-year old Dutchman Christijan Albers only graduated into the Mercedes works-team HWA at the start of the season. Regarding season wins, it is 4-2 in favour of the newcomer, who had made a name for himself before with a one-year old CLK. Only just in the A-team of the car manufacturer from Stuttgart, Albers surprised with his maiden victory in the second season round at the Adria Raceway. His motto for the final: "Bernd will be very strong. But I will give everything -- like in every race."
Three-times' DTM-champion Bernd Schneider is optimistic. "Hockenheim is my home round. I like the track very much, I know every corner and I have had a lot of successes here. I am convinced that we will see one of the most dramatic races of this year's DTM."
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport director Norbert Haug: "With Bernd Schneider and Christijan Albers separated by only one point, the title race is completely open before the final at Hockenheim and we are all looking forward to a great race in front of a capacity crowd. There will be some 12,000 Mercedes-Benz employees keeping their fingers crossed for Bernd and Christijan at the circuit. Whoever of them wins the championship after this season really has deserved the title. Our rivals Audi and Opel will be strong at Hockenheim and it would be nice when we can finish this successful season for Mercedes-Benz with a victory."
Opel-Youngster Timo Scheider: "We will be fighting until the final corner"
Currently, Opel-driver Timo Scheider really has unfinished business after having been the tragic hero of the ninth round of the DTM in The Netherlands. There, the 24-year old had taken pole-position with the Opel Astra V8 Coupé and then turned this into the race lead with an excellent start. Problems during the pit stop by his team, otherwise always perfect, prevented Timo Scheider from claiming his first-ever DTM-win.
But the youngster keeps up his professional attitude: "Our Opel-team was strong at Zandvoort as a whole, we were the strongest make out there. We have shown that we are capable of winning a race with our Astra Coupé. That gives us courage and energy for the final. We will be fighting until the final lap."
Manuel Reuter, the 1996 ITC-champion with the Opel Calibra V6, is also promising: "At Hockenheim, our fans can expect an Opel-crew that is 100 percent motivated. I think that we are quite well sorted for the final." The longest-standing Opel-driver says: "The Grand Prix-track with its good combination of rather slow and fast corners is fun and it should suit our car, too. Moreover, there are opportunities for overtaking there. We would like to thank our fans for their loyalty with a race win."
Motorsport director Volker Strycek confirms: "We are well prepared going into the final and we will do everything to show a similarly strong performance like at Zandvoort. The most beautiful thing would be when we would get the reward for our performance, too."
Laurent Aiello wants to bow out of his championship year with a victory
Reigning champion Laurent Aiello with the Abt-Audi TT-R also has ambitious goals: "I will be giving everything to bow out of my championship year with a victory", the Frenchman announces. Having become champion in 2002 with four race wins, Aiello has only won at the Nürburgring so far this year.
But last year's dominant driver also gets opposition from within his own team with 25-year old Abt-team-mate Mattias Ekström from Sweden. After all, with a spirited drive towards a podium place at the most recent round at Zandvoort, the Swede demoted multiple touring car champion Aiello, his senior by nine years, from fourth place in the championship standings.
"My goal is clear: I want to win the final", says Ekström. "So it ill be a flat-out fight at Hockenheim, the others better be prepared. For me, it isn't a big thing in which place of the championship I will eventually be. Winning is the only thing that counts, and after all, I was runner-up last year."
Team-mate Christian Abt is looking forward: "The atmosphere in the motodrom is always great, that is an incredible boost." Abt team-principal Hans-Jürgen Abt analyses: "Mattias has shown at Zandvoort that he could have been further up on the podium, had it not been for his problems at the start, that weren't his fault. Our car was among the front runners, which was also proven by the lap times." Therefore, the team principal from Kempten in the Allgäu is just as motivated as his drivers: "Now, we are looking forward and we will be attacking again during the final."