Schneider wins first race of the DTM 2001 - Aiello seventh with Abt-Audi, Opel with quickest pitstop

Hockenheim. Bernd Schneider has won the first race of the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) at the Hockenheimring. With his Mercedes-Benz CLK, the reigning champion clearly dominated the make-internal competition and won with 41:15.568 minutes from Marcel Fassler, Peter Dumbreck and Uwe Alzen. Seventh-placed Laurent Aiello, driving his Abt-Audi TT-R, was best Audi-driver. Timo Scheider was the best-placed Opel-driver, finishing eleventh in his Opel Astra V8 Coupe.

"That was a perfect week-end", said a delighted winner Bernd Schneider. He admitted that the safety car phase between lap 27 and 30 "disturbed him a bit", but his success was never in any danger. The safety car came onto the track, because Martin Tomczyk (Audi) had had an accident. Schneider's fellow-Mercedes-driver Fassler made good use of the situation for the newly introduced mandatory pitstop with tyre change. This tactica move brought him into second place. Fassler put the pressure on, but he found no way past defending champion Schneider. Meanwhile, some breath-taking position fights were taking place in the midfield. For instance, Laurent Aiello and Darren Turner (Mercedes) were battling for seventh - the Frenchman finally had the upper hand. Opel-driver Timo Scheider had the quickest pitstop with 7.931 seconds.

Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek said: "It was just not our week-end. And what was more, that three of our drivers unfortunately got involved in some accidents. We will however work hard in order to show a better performance in a fortnight at the Nurburgring and get back again to where we were already in testing." Mercedes motorsport director Norbert Haug was positive about the firs DTM-race of 2001, and not only because of the own good result. "We have seen excellent sport. It was a great race with exciting fights, hard but fair. I am convinced that Opel will do their utmost and be back in front again next time already. Audi had a good basis. So, everything is there for an exciting season." Audi-team boss Hans-Jurgen Abt: "We have been working hard before the start of the season. Three of our four cars had their first miles here in Hockenheim. Laurent's seventh place is a reward for the whole team and is a clear indication of how much potential there is in the car."

Result race: 1. Bernd Schneider, Mercedes, 41:15.568; 2. Marcel Fassler, Mercedes, 0.8 sec; 3. Peter Dumbreck, Mercedes, 4.7; 4. Uwe Alzen, Mercedes, 5.4; 5. Thomas Jager, Mercedes, 14.5; 6. Pedro Lamy, Mercedes, 17.2; 7. Laurent Aiello, Audi, 21.1; 8. Darren Turner, Mercedes, 22.2; 9. Bernd Maylander, Mercedes, 22.5; 10. Christian Abt, Audi, 22.8