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Aiello in shock Abt Audi move

Reigning British Touring Car champion Laurent Aiello will join the Abt Sportsline Audi team to compete in the new DTM series in 2000.

Aiello had been expected to switch to the DTM after his Nissan team decided to pull out of the BTCC at the end of last season, but most rumours linked him with an Opel drive.

Abt have only just received permission to run the new Audi TT in the championship this year, after having to wait for approval from rival manufacturers Opel and Mercedes. The dimensions of the TT did not quite fit the series regulations.

'We are delighted to have such a strong driver for our project,' said team boss Hans-Jurgen Abt. 'Aiello was first choice for our sponsor Hasseroder.'

Aiello was sponsored by beer company Hasseroder in his days as a works Peugeot driver in the STW Cup. He took the 1997 series title for the team and finished second to Johnny Cecotto in 1998 before switching to the BTCC.

He will join reigning STW champion Christian Abt and Dane Kris Nissen in the three-car team. A fourth TT will be entered later in the season, with former BMW touring car star Christian Menzel likely to be the driver.

Aiello will contest the Le Mans 24-hour race for Audi, missing the DTM round at Oschersleben in the process. This is thought to be one of the key reasons why he chose the Abt project over Opel.

'I'm looking forward to working with the Abt Sportsline team,' Aiello said. 'I'm 100 percent focussed on the project and I have just one goal: I want to win as many DTM rounds as possible. There is no reason why this shouldn't happen.'

The DTM kicks off at Hockenheim on May 28.

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