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The sixth round at Donington marks the start of the second half of the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) season. For reigning champion Laurent Aiello and his team Abt Sportsline, the start of the second half-time also means the start of a recovery in the battle for the title: in four of the five races held so far, there was at least one Abt driver on the podium – now, the team from the Allgäu wants its first win. To keep the fight for the title exciting, the team and the drivers didn’t sit back and relax during the five weeks’ summer break.
Before the start into the second half-time, Abt Sportsline has left nothing to chance: for two days, Laurent Aiello, Christian Abt, Mattias Ekström and Martin Tomczyk shared driving duties with the Abt-Audi TT-Rs at Vallelunga in Italy to make the championship-winning car of the year 2002 fit for the second half of the season. “The boys really had to suffer, as temperatures rose as high as 38 degrees in the shadow”, team principal Hans-Jürgen Abt reports. Nevertheless, his drivers completed several hundred laps without any trouble.
“Of course, the strict regulations of the DTM limit possibilities during the course of the season”, says Hans-Jürgen Abt. “But we have still found some details that we will now deal with as quickly as possible. Not just the drivers and the cars, but also the team is very well prepared for Donington: in order to make work in the pit lane even more perfect in realistic conditions, the pit stop crews were present at Vallelunga as well.
Last year, Abt Sportsline’s weekend at Donington was as curious as it was successful. After nearly all the “Abts” had messed it up in qualifying, they really shone in the race. Christian Abt made it all the way up from last on the grid to finish second while team-mate Mattias Ekström also made it onto the podium after having started from the pit lane. Hans-Jürgen Abt: “We have already seen that anything can happen at Donington. This weekend, however, we want to do it better and get a decent starting position in the first place. And then we will attack.”
Before the start of the second half of he season, Laurent Aiello is best-placed Abt driver in fifth place, 14 points down. Although the Frenchman won the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in 1999, a victory at Donington is still missing in his collection.
Quotes before the race
Laurent Aiello (Abt-Audi TT-R #1): “The first half-time of this year may have been won by Mercedes. But there are still five races to go, and our arrears are much less than my advantage last year. And then, things still became really exciting. In testing, we have been working a lot on the set-up of the cars. I am certain that this will already help us at Donington.”
Christian Abt (Abt-Audi TT-R #2): “For us, it is important now to benefit from the experience in testing as quickly as possible. Of course, that isn’t easy during the course of the season, but everybody in the team knows what it is all about: we want to catch up and still play a role in the fight for the title.”
Mattias Ekström (Abt-Audi TT-R #5): “I really like the circuit at Donington. It is really fast and fluent. Last year, we messed it up in qualifying. That is one thing we will be doing better this weekend for sure. And I am also curious to see how our efforts in testing will pay off. I think it will be a hot race for the spectators – and for our rivals.”
Karl Wendlinger (Abt-Audi TT-R #6): “This season, competition in the DTM is even closer than last year. Especially with a one-year old car, everything has to be perfectly right to make it into the points. Although I have been in the Super Pole three times already, I am not satisfied yet. I will keep on fighting.”
Martin Tomczyk (Abt-Audi TT-R #14): “Donington is a very unusual track, because we don’t have such a layout in Germany. I am doing quite well there and I already started from the second row last year. Now, I only hope that the race will last a little bit longer: in 2002, I was fighting for the lead, but then, unfortunately, I was pushed off.”
Peter Terting (Abt-Audi TT-R #15): “For me, this will be my first race ever in Great Britain. I am looking forward to Donington, because I have already heard a lot about the track and the British fans. I hope that I will be able to keep on improving during the second half of the season, just like I did in the first five rounds.”
News in brief from the Team Abt Sportsline
In time for the DTM’s guest appearance in Great Britain, the English edition of the Abt chronology “Der Abt. Das Buch” is being published +++ Water sports: Mattias Ekström spent his holidays with jet skiing. While Laurent Aiello prefers hazardous jumps, the Swede rather took his little terrier Moss for a ride +++ Partnership: in order to provide the team with transport capacity on the island as well, Seat UK and Audi UK are supporting the Abt team with cars +++ Unwind: to relax and for an extensive fitness training, Christian Abt spent one week in the sun at Majorca. Junior Peter Terting came to visit his team-mate +++ A long guest list: together with Audi UK, Abt Sportsline UK has invited employees and Audi dealers in the Paddock Suite at Donington. Some 200 guests are being expected just for the Sunday +++