Hard work paying off for Aiello

Hard work paying off for Aiello

After two years with Mercedes leading the way in the DTM, this year has seen Abt-Audi become major players and Abt Sportsline's Laurent Aiello currently leads the driver's championship. With four victories from the six rounds so far, Aiello is ...

After two years with Mercedes leading the way in the DTM, this year has seen Abt-Audi become major players and Abt Sportsline's Laurent Aiello currently leads the driver's championship. With four victories from the six rounds so far, Aiello is twenty-one points clear of his nearest rival; AMG Mercedes' reigning champion Bernd Schneider.

Successful in French and British touring cars, Aiello was an anonymous sixteenth in 2000 when the German touring car series was revived. Last year was a big improvement to fifth in the standings overall and this year has seen him rocket to the top to be one of the favourites for the title. Motorsport.com asked the Frenchman his thoughts on the season so far.

Although some have been surprised by Abt being at the front in 2002, Aiello knows it was simply a matter of hard work.

Laurent Aiello.
Photo by Abt Sportsline.
"Not really," he replied when asked if he was surprised how competitive the team is. "Because we had done so much hard work during the winter -- and now it simply pays off. We knew Abt already had a very good car last year, which was good for two victories. So we just took that car and worked around on many details, but not built a totally new one. So we had enough time for testing and were prepared for the first race at Hockenheim."

Some changes were made to this year's Abt-Audi TT-R but not a great deal, team-work and organization are just as important.

"As I said, there are no big things we've changed since last year," Aiello commented of the 2002 car. "We again improved the kinematics of the suspension, we are running a new engine which gives us some more power. And not only is the car improved, the whole team is improved. Everything is organized even better than last year. Since 2000, we became a real big family."

As in many racing series, qualifying is all-important and the Frenchman has had three pole positions this year. With the times so close in DTM you need just as much luck as hard work to stay in the front runners.

"Qualifying on pole in the DTM always means a great bit of luck. If you see the race at the Norisring for example, there were 21 cars within only one second. So you simply have to concentrate one hundred percent on yourself and the car and make a perfect lap. And you have to work hard during the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday morning -- if the setup is not perfect when qualifying starts, you can easily drop out of the top ten."

Bernd Schneider and Laurent Aiello fighting for the lead.
Photo by DaimlerChrysler.
Mercedes have been dominant in the DTM, taking the top four positions in the driver's standings last year as well as the top three constructors'. This season has seem them off the pace, the new CLK not as good as they thought it would be, but they are starting to return to form. Bernd Schneider took his first victory of 2002 in the last race at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz while Aiello was relegated to fourth.

It remains to be seen if Abt keep ahead of the fighting back Mercedes teams and Aiello has wisely not written off their previous successes.

"We still have four races to go, so anything can happen. You always have to be aware of the Mercedes guys who won two championships and are always good for victory. I keep on concentrating on myself, do my races and collect some points and give everything to take the lead to the final round."

"The margin of 21 points sounds big," he added of his lead over Schneider. "But after the next two races everything could already have changed. My advantage is that I don't have to win every race from now on -- but the other guys have to."

The next race is at the N?rburgring on August 4th and Aiello has good memories of the track, but will it be suited to the car?

Laurent Aiello.
Photo by Markus Arias-Roehner.
"Yes, I think so," he said. "The circuit fits our car quite well, now we will see how it will work out in the new part of the track. But I have only the best memories about the N?rburgring -- remember that I won both races there last year."

Aiello has a long and successful career in racing: starting in karts in the early eighties he progressed to French Formula 3, European Formula 3000 through to touring cars. The last ten years he has been competing in various European touring car series but the DTM he deems the best: not only is it professional, it's fun.

"Without a doubt the DTM is the most professional touring car series I've ever raced in. But I also had great competition in every championship around Europe. If you look at all the big names and strong youngsters we have in this years' season -- it's just great fun at every race weekend."

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Series DTM
Drivers Laurent Aiello , Bernd Schneider