Zandvoort: Round nine preview

9th round DTM Circuit Park Zandvoort/NL, September 27-29, 2002 Countdown in the dunes -- will Abt-Audi-driver Aiello take the title in Zandvoort? Plenty of tension going into the penultimate round of the DTM 2002 at the Circuit Park Zandvoort...

9th round DTM Circuit Park Zandvoort/NL, September 27-29, 2002

Countdown in the dunes -- will Abt-Audi-driver Aiello take the title in Zandvoort?

Plenty of tension going into the penultimate round of the DTM 2002 at the Circuit Park Zandvoort in The Netherlands. Points leader Laurent Aiello (Abt-Audi TT-R) still needs exactly seven points, then he is German touring car champion. The Frenchman has a 19 points' lead over his only remaining rival for the title, the still reigning champion Bernd Schneider (Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM). There will be plenty of action for the DTM in its ninth round at the track, idyllically located in the dunes of the North Sea, September 27 till 29.

Alain Menu, Manuel Reuter and Timo Scheider (all Opel Astra V8 Coupé) also have unfinished business, after all missing out on a possible podium finish in the most recent round at the A1-Ring due to unfortunate circumstances on the final lap. Last year already, 40,000 spectators witnessed an action-packed race at the 4.3 kilometres long track-- even though the title race had already been decided back then.

Title candidate Aiello: "We will do everything to secure the title"

Aiello, who already won four rounds this season, is quite relaxed facing his second "match point": "At Zandvoort, I will have a better start than at the A1-Ring, I have been practicing a lot during testing last week. It is certain that I don't necessarily have to win in The Netherlands, I can rather take it easy and keep focused on the championship. More than ever, we will be racing as a closed team and we will do everything to secure the title."

Abt-Audi team-mate Christian Abt, who only just missed out on his maiden DTM-victory at the dune track after a memorable fight with Uwe Alzen, "obviously wants to win this time". But for the driver from the Allgau, it is clear: "Should Laurent need victory to secure the title, I will not block him. We know from last year, that we are very strong with the Abt-Audi TT-R at Zandvoort." The leader of the pack, team principal Hans-Jürgen Abt, is confident, too: "We are looking forward to the race and we will do everything to bag the title there."

Mercedes-Benz motorsport director Haug: "An obligation to fair play"

"We feel that we have an obligation to fair play and we don't want to overdo things at Zandvoort either." Mercedes-Benz motorsport director gives the instruction to his line-up of ten drivers. "But racing will be hard, no doubt about it. The way they were fighting in Austria was the limit, we shouldn't go any further than that."

Just like Aiello, rival Bernd Schneider seems relaxed. "Zandvoort suits the Audis, Laurent has a good chance of claiming the title there." Nevertheless, the three times' DTM champion wants to "provide the spectators once again with such a good show like at the A1-Ring. And maybe, we can still keep the title race open until the final in Hockenheim..."

Two drivers are particularly looking forward to the Zandvoort round: the two Dutchmen Christijan Albers and Patrick Huisman. "For me, the race is a highlight. The atmosphere is unique and the DTM weekend has something on offer for every motor racing fan, young and old alike," says Huisman. Albers knows: "With last year's CLK-DTM, a podium finish will be difficult. But my motto is: always at full speed, then anything can happen."

Eric Helary back in an Opel-cockpit at Zandvoort: "I am just overjoyed"

After former F1-driver JJ Lehto, Eric Helary will also be making his come-back in the DTM. At Zandvoort, the Frenchman will be racing an Opel Astra V8 Coupé of the Euroteam. The winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours was already racing for Opel in the STW in 1998 and 1999 and in the DTM in 2000, scoring three pole-positions and two victories. "I am just overjoyed, being able to drive a DTM-Opel again," says Eric Helary.

Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek: "We would have liked to have had JJ Lehto at Zandvoort following his tenth place at the A1-Ring, but because of commitments to Cadillac and Finnish television, he is in the United States for six weeks."

Opel's established DTM-drivers are also looking forward to the race at the North Sea coast. Youngster Timo Scheider "likes the track. It is like driving on the beach, always wind and a lot of sand. This makes the track conditions changing all the time. I also like that the spectators are sitting in the scenery, like natural grand stands. It gives racing its original atmosphere, that I am sometimes missing at other race tracks."

Alain Menu, who scored a podium finish with the Opel Astra V8 Coupé at the Sachsenring, says: "Zandvoort is a drivers' track with completely different corners, inclines and drops, and I like it quite well." Because of its fast sections, the track is also known to be very challenging. Fellow Opel-driver says: "It is a super race track. It's something for men."


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Series DTM
Drivers Bernd Schneider , Uwe Alzen , Manuel Reuter , Christijan Albers , Timo Scheider , Christian Abt , Patrick Huisman , Volker Strycek , Eric Helary , Hans-Jurgen Abt , Alain Menu , JJ Lehto