Aiello leaves Audi squad

Former DTM champion Laurent Aiello has split from Audi and has targeted a 2004 seat with its series rival Opel instead

Aiello leaves Audi squad

Aiello, the 1999 British Touring Car Champion, won the German-based series after taking on and beating the all-conquering AMG Mercedes squad with the Audi-backed Abt Sportsline team. After a disappointing 2003, which included just one win at the Nurburgring, the 35-year-old Frenchman has decided to move on.

"I am definitely not going to drive for Audi next year, and I am talking to Opel to try and find a solution," said Aiello. "I really hope we can reach a deal, although nothing is done yet. I have been with Audi for the last four years, and now it is time to change.

"I had contact with Opel last year, but, although we were happy to talk, my choice was to stay with Abt because we had just won the championship. Now it is time for me to change manufacturers."

Aiello, who has also driven for BMW, Peugeot and Nissan in touring cars, insists that a deal with Opel is not dependent on whether his longtime race engineer Ludovic Lacroix joins Opel as technical director.

DTM insiders have suggested that such a one-on-one relationship might not sit well with Opel's recent restructuring programme.

Aiello added: "It would be an ideal situation if we were working together again, but sometimes it is good to work separately. I don't know if we will be together or not."

Opel has confirmed Peter Dumbreck and Manuel Reuter in its 2004 line-up, and is expected to reveal another signing at the Essen Motorshow today (Thursday). It is expected to run at least six cars in the DTM next year.

An Opel spokesman said: "There has been interest in Aiello in the past, but I can't confirm we're in discussions at the moment."

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