May 17, 2002
The third round of the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) demands not only a perfectly set up vehicle, but also a huge portion of courage from the drivers. The 4.023 kilometre circuit in Donington, with its flowing corners as well as its roller-coaster passages, is regarded as one of the fastest tracks on the DTM calendar. In the British Isles, the Abt Sportsline team wants to continue its success streak, which began with two consecutive double victories.
“For us every victory is like winning the championship at the moment,” declares Hans-Jürgen Abt. However, leading up to the guest appearance of the new DTM in Donington, the team boss has put the brakes on his team´s raised expectations. “The Hockenheim and Zolder circuits suited our TT-R extremely well, and the weather for sure played a role in Belgium. But I´m certain our competitors will not be complacent and in Donington will attack with everything they´ve got. A hattrick with three consecutive wins will be incredibly difficult.”
The circuit situated near to Nottingham is not new territory for the Abt drivers: Christian Abt (1997 in the RAC Tourist Trophy), Laurent Aiello (1999 in the British Touring Car Championship), Mattias Ekström (1995 in the Formula Vauxhall School) and Karl Wendlinger (1993 in Formula 1) have already contested races in Donington. Martin Tomczyk has chosen his own way to prepare: Over the next days the youngster of the team Abt Sportsline familiarises himself with the track via a computer game from partner PlayStation.
The first race of the new DTM in Britain is also a logistical challenge for the teams. On Tuesday Abt Sportsline´s four yellow-blue trucks loaded with the five Abt-Audi TT-R car and race taxi begin the journey from Kempten to Oostende (Belgium) where the ferry departs for Ramsgate. The entire squad of mechanics fly on Thursday morning and begin as usual in the afternoon with preparing the vehicles for the race track.
Laurent Aiello and Mattias Ekström travel to the third round of the season in England leading the DTM drivers´ classification, with the Abt Sportsline Team also heading the points table for teams after its two double victories in Hockenheim and Zolder.
Quotes before the race
Christian Abt (#10): “Donington is a very fast and flowing track with a downhill passage that we will perhaps take in sixth gear. You need a huge amount of courage. For us drivers it´s a very challenging circuit, but it also places demands on the engineers. With them we have to find an optimal set up for the car so that it fits the characteristics of the track perfectly.”
Laurent Aiello (#3): “I´m really excited about driving in England again. Although I became the 1999 champion there I won neither of the races at Donington – perhaps I can make up for it. In 1999 I had an unbelievable number of fans and I´m looking forward to seeing them again. As the hunted it gets more and more difficult from race to race in the DTM. But if we continue to work concentratedly then I´m certain we can withstand the pressure. For me it´s not so important to win now but to keep bringing in the points. But of course I prefer victories…”
Mattias Ekström (#9): “It was in Donington that I contested my first race kilometres outside Sweden. I took part in a Formula Vauxhall school in 1995 and drove at least 200 laps in Donington – so I have enough experience. I find the track great because of its many corners and it´s not as tight as the Zolder circuit. My goal is clear: By Saturday afternoon I´ll fight for a top place and in Sunday´s race I´ll concentrate on collecting points and bringing home the best result for the team.”
Martin Tomczyk (#23): “I only know the Donington track from my PlayStation2 but I´m sure it will suit me. It has many fast passages and points where you brake very hard – that´s what I like. After qualifying at Hockenheim and Zolder I know what I can achieve, so I´m keen to continue in this vein and under any circumstances finish the race – preferably of course in the points.”
Karl Wendlinger (#4): “The circuit in Donington is not as twisty as Zolder. There are faster passages and above all faster corners. I drove there in 1993 in the European Formula 1 Grand Prix, but unfortunately retired. I´m determined to make up for this next weekend.”