The time of sandbagging in the DTM is definitely over: in the first qualifying of the new season at the Hockenheimring, French driver Laurent Aiello (Abt-Audi) set the best time with 57.528 seconds. The Team Abt Sportsline showed an impressive...
The time of sandbagging in the DTM is definitely over: in the first qualifying of the new season at the Hockenheimring, French driver Laurent Aiello (Abt-Audi) set the best time with 57.528 seconds. The Team Abt Sportsline showed an impressive team performance: the five Abt-Audi TT-Rs entered occupied the places one to three and five and six. Only Opel-driver Manuel Reuter succeeded to break the Audi domination with his Opel Astra V8 Coupé, only minutes before the end of the session, he took fourth place.
At the start of the session, reigning champion Bernd Schneider (Mercedes-Benz) was fastest with 58.083 seconds. But just after that, one Audi-driver after another outpaced him: firstly Mattias Ekström (58.046), then Christian Abt (58,033), Karl Wendlinger (57,845), Martin Tomczyk (57,700) and finally Laurent Aiello (57,528).
"We have a very good car and especially here in Hockenheim, we are very well sorted", said Laurent Aiello after qualifying. "Our team is well prepared for this season and is all ready to fight for the championship." Former F1-driver Karl Wendlinger, Aiello's new team colleague in the DTM, was equally satisfied in third place. "In winter, the team has developed the car further into the right direction." His team principal Hans-Jürgen Abt praised his performance: "Excellent. Karl is new and is third right away. As a person and as a racer, he is a great guy." Martin Tomczyk: "I did only little testing, but Laurent Aiello and Christian Abt have worked out a great basic set-up, which now is useful to all of us."
Opel-driver Manuel Reuter was already convinced of his Opel Astra V8 Coupé after testing on Friday. Reuter: "All of us at Opel have been working hard during the winter. Now, we can finally see the result: the Opel Coupé has the performance to race in front. I am sure that this year will see an exciting championship. Many of us were really relieved after the first qualifying session of the 2002 season." Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek sees it likewise: "Now, I really feel better. Today, we have had a good start into the new season with our new car." With Timo Scheider in eighth place and Alain Menu in tenth position, two further Opel-drivers made it into the top ten as well.
Reigning champion Bernd Schneider had to make do with seventh place as the best driver of a Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM. "For me, it was mainly in the final sector. I was fighting like mad, but it wasn't enough. My car was perfect and therefore, I am disappointed with my own performance. But I am convinced that we have a good set-up for the race." Mercedes-Benz motorsport director Norbert Haug has not yet written off the race: "In the race, almost any of the twelve fastest drivers has a chance when he has a good start. The first 14 drivers are within one second, and between fifth and 21st place, there is not even one second."
Jean Alesi, still in Formula 1 only last year and this year a prominent new entry at Mercedes-Benz, made it to 14th place in qualifying. Norbert Haug: "It was not at all bad, what Jean showed today, but probably he wanted a little bit too much. In spite of some powerslides, he achieved good sector times. Jean is an excellent racer and surely will find his way in the DTM after a short time of getting used to it."