April 21, 2002
At the opening round of the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) in Hockenheim, in front of 56,000 spectators, the Team Abt Sportsline impressively proved that the Abt-Audi TT-Rs are able to race for the title in the 2002 season. Laurent Aiello and Mattias Ekström provided the team from the Allgäu with a dominant double victory and also took the lead in the championship. Youngster Martin Tomczyk (20) completed the success of the Abt tram with a lights-to-flag victory in the qualification race.
Following the strong performance in qualifying, the Abt-Audi TT-Rs were in a class of their own on race day as well. In the qualification race, Martin Tomczyk, Laurent Aiello, Mattias Ekström and Christian Abt occupied the first four places. Karl Wendlinger had to make do with tenth place after a not entirely perfect start and a spectacular spin. In the race, the Austrian charged to sixth and thus scored a point at his DTM debut. And that is especially valuable because of the new DTM points scheme, that only rewards the best six, just like in Formula 1.
Martin Tomczyk had bad luck in the main race: following his dominant victory in the qualification race, the youngest driver in the entire DTM-field didn’t have a good getaway at the start. Although he dropped back to tenth place, the driver from Rosenheim was already getting close to a point scoring position before his mandatory pit stop. After the tyre change, however, the youngster shifted into neutral under braking and landed in the gravel trap.
Christian Abt’s strong performance also remained unrewarded. The driver from Kempten overtook Jean Alesi with a spectacular manoeuvre, was a secure second and was catching up on the eventual winner Laurent Aiello, but then had to sit out a stop and go penalty just before the end of the race. That made Abt, who had conducted a major part of testing with the Abt-Audi TT-R during the winter, drop out of the points.
At the season opener, the Team Abt Sportsline was not only fastest on the track: with 7.020 seconds, the crew from the Allgäu also completed the fastest pit stop of the day.
Quotes after the race
Laurent Aiello (2nd place / 1st place):
“For me, this week-end is an absolute dream start into the season. I want to fight for the championship and today, I made the first step for it. A big hand to the team, who have worked out an excellent set-up for the main race. We have trained the start many times, which has paid off today. Nevertheless, we will not rest and we will start working for the next round at Zolder tomorrow.”
Martin Tomczyk (1st place / retired):
“I am sure that I also could have won the main race, as my car was just perfect. Unfortunately, I stalled on the grid and lost some positions as a result. Under braking for the Sachs-corner, I shifted into neutral and slid into the gravel trap. But still, happiness over the great qualification race prevails.”
Karl Wendlinger (10th place / 6th place):
“For me, it is great to start so far in front and race among the front runners in the first race already. I have the speed, I was competitive and I even scored my first point. The spin in the qualification race was really tricky, but fortunately, the drivers behind me reacted well, so that there was no collision.”
Christian Abt (4th place / 7th place):
“I think that I could have caught Laurent today, therefore, I am really annoyed by this time penalty. But it is just the result of the race that counts, and that is just great. Everybody has contributed. For me, it was my engineer, who gave me the fastest car of the week-end. And I have achieved something more: now, Jean Alesi knows me. That wasn’t the case in testing a few weeks ago.”
Mattias Ekström (3rd place / 2nd place):
“Our work in the winter, when we have improved our TT-R in all aspects, has entirely paid off today. The standing start worked really well for me. I could drive a great race and have achieved the best result of my DTM career so far. Now, I want a little bit more in the next races.”
Hans-Jürgen Abt (team principal):
“I could only dream about such a result. But still, it is no coincidence. We have built a fast car, we have a highly professional staff and five strong drivers. With this perfect package, we really have deserved this double victory. Now, we will enjoy it for a few days and then, it is just the next race in Zolder that counts.”