DTM

Zandvoort: Race report

Abt-Audi-triumph: Aiello claims title, maiden DTM-victory for Ekström Frenchman Laurent Aiello has converted his second match point for an early win in the DTM 2002 with his Abt-Audi TT-R: a sixth place in the main race during the ninth and ...

Abt-Audi-triumph: Aiello claims title, maiden DTM-victory for Ekström

Frenchman Laurent Aiello has converted his second match point for an early win in the DTM 2002 with his Abt-Audi TT-R: a sixth place in the main race during the ninth and penultimate round of the DTM at the Circuit Park Zandvoort in The Netherlands was enough for him to wrap up the championship title. Defending champion Bernd Schneider would have had to win the race at the fast track in the North Sea dunes to postpone the decision until the season final at Hockenheim (October 4-6).

But starting from sixth place, Schneider finished only second with the Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM. Outstanding winner of the exciting race was Swede Mattias Ekström with the Abt-Audi TT-R. It was the first victory in the DTM for the 24-year old. Third place went to Schneider's fellow Mercedes-Benz-driver Marcel Fässler, Manuel Reuter and Timo Schieder (both Opel Astra V8 Coupé) occupied fourth and fifth place respectively.

Champion Aiello: "I dedicate the DTM-title to my late grand father"

Fastest qualifier Aiello had to start from 21st and last position for the qualification race. The stewards had banned him from the qualification race, because a pollution was discovered in the fuel of his car on Saturday evening. "Probably, there still was a rest of the fuel in the tank that we used during testing at the Lausitzring last week., and as a result, the fuel was not identical with the one that was available at Zandvoort," Abt Sportsline's team principal Hans-Jürgen Abt explained.

But in a charging race, Aiello made it all the way up to sixth place. "During the first races of the season, we created a certain gap between ourselves and Mercedes. We benefited from that after the halfway-point, as Bernd Schneider became stronger and stronger."

The Frenchman dedicated his championship "to his grand father, who passed away last spring. He bought me my first racing go-kart and without him, I couldn't have celebrated this great victory today." Zandvoort-winner Mattias Ekström was overjoyed: "This was the greatest race of my life. One has to be very careful, not to lose concentration, when you are cruising there in front, all on your own..."

Schneider: "Laurent and the Abt-team were unbeatable this year"

"Congratulations to Laurent, he is a worthy champion," the defeated DTM-champion Bernd Schneider said. "In combination with the Abt-team, he has just been the best of the season. But it is my goal to get the championship title back next year. And self-critical, the 38-year old added: "Today, I was not fast enough to win. And this was my only chance to keep my title chances alive. Little Swede Ekström was just better than me. Thanks to my team-mate Marcel Fässler, as he was also quicker than me and gave me second place. And thanks to the team, that brought me two more places further up courtesy of a sensational pit stop."

Opel-driver Reuter: podium finish by his own means would have been possible

Opel-star Manuel Reuter also congratulated Aiello and promised: "Next year, we will certainly not make things as easy for him as this year." With his result in Zandvoort, Reuter was "not entirely satisfied. Had I not ruined the start, losing two places, I could have achieved a podium finish by my own means. Of course, that's annoying. I am satisfied, because with the Astra Coupés, we did the same lap times as the others. From that point of view, I am looking forward to an exciting final in Hockenheim." With Timo Scheider in fifth place, another Opel-driver made it into the points.

-dtm-

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Series DTM
Drivers Laurent Aiello , Marcel Fassler , Bernd Schneider , Manuel Reuter , Timo Scheider , Mattias Ekström