Abt Sportsline has the first "match point" for the title at the A1-Ring For Abt Sportsline, the guest appearance of the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) in Austria next week-end is a season highlight for two reasons. At the A1-Ring, Abt driver...
Abt Sportsline has the first "match point" for the title at the A1-Ring
For Abt Sportsline, the guest appearance of the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) in Austria next week-end is a season highlight for two reasons. At the A1-Ring, Abt driver Laurent Aiello has the first "match point" for the title. If the Frenchman scores two points more than Bernd Schneider on Sunday, then the defending champion from the Mercedes-camp has been defeated and Laurent Aiello will be the new DTM-champion. For Karl Wendlinger, the race is no less exciting: the Kufstein-born driver has been looking forward to his home round for a long time and wants to step on the podium in Spielberg.
Hans-Jürgen Abt does not particularly like calculating. "During the summer break, we have been preparing for the race in Austria as well as we could. We spent two days testing in Italy and we will be taking on the week-end as concentrated as usual -- without any games on the calculator," the team boss says. Fact is: if Laurent Aiello scores two points more than Bernd Schneider, the 2002 DTM title will go to Kempten in the Allgäu.
For Abt Sportsline, it would be the biggest success in the history of the family-owned company, that goes back over 100 years. Following Christian Abt's victory in the 1999 STW-championship, the team had taken on the "adventure DTM" as a privateer outfit, had to learn a lot in its inaugural season and only scored some results for the record in its debut year. In the 2001 season however, Aiello and Abt Sportsline aired their title ambitions with two race wins already. With four victories from the first seven rounds, Laurent Aiello clearly underlined this intention in the third year of the new DTM.
Local hero Karl Wendlinger has quite different expectations coming to Spielberg: following a rather weak season so far, in which the former F1 driver always showed his class, but was often marred by bad luck, Wendlinger hopes to break his duck during his home round. Of course, Wendlinger can't rely on his often-cited "home advantage": the only Austrian in the 21 drivers strong field has only raced twice in his career at the A1-Ring.
In addition to the two protagonists Aiello and Wendlinger, Abt Sportsline has three more aces to play at Spielberg: Mattias Ekström wants to claim second place in the championship back from champion Bernd Schneider. Christian Abt, who already scored two second places this season with his famous competitive spirit, is always a candidate for a race win, too. And last but not least, there is junior driver Martin Tomczyk, who wants more after his fifth place at the Nürburgring...
No matter if Abt, Aiello, Ekström, Tomczyk or Wendlinger -- in Austria, the Abt drivers also want to continue an impressive series: after each race this season, at least one driver of the team from Kempten has been on the podium...
Quotes before the race
Christian Abt (#10):
"The A1-Ring is not particularly my favourite track, because there, like at the Nürburgring, it is more down to the equipment than to the driver. Nevertheless, with its combination of very slow and very fast parts, the track has its own character. For Karl, Martin, Mattias and myself, the goal is clear: we want to take as many positions as possible from Mercedes, so that Laurent can score his points for the DTM-title out in front."
Laurent Aiello (#3):
"The calculations do not really bother me. I don't care where, when and how I can win the title. As usual, I am concentrating on the race weekend, I will be taking it as easily as I can and give my best on Sunday. When I then see the sign 'P1' on my pit board, I will know that we have done it."
Mattias Ekström (#9):
"Finally, we are back to racing again! I spent the summer break very well with some relaxing and a lot of training, but now it is time to get back into the cockpit of my TT-R again. After my non-scoring at the Nürburgring, I will have to make sure that Bernd Schneider doesn't pull away from me, because I want to remain involved there in front as well."
Martin Tomczyk (#23):
"Following my fifth place from the Nürburgring, I am perfectly relaxed coming to Austria. When I succeed in converting my speed from practice in the race again, a podium finish is within reach. Last year, I was already on the way there, until my chances were eliminated in the start crash. So, I will be making another attempt."
Karl Wendlinger (#4):
"For me, it is the most important race of the season. On one hand, because a home race in front of a great crowd always is something special. And on the other hand, because I finally want to get a top result again -- unfortunately, I haven't had that for a long time. Like in previous rounds, I will be giving everything form the first practice session onwards and I will not let things get to me mentally: remain cool and work hard, that has always been the right way."