Aiello to stick with Audi in 2001?

Laurent Aiello has given his clearest indication yet that he is prepared to spend a second term in the DTM with the Abt-run Audi squad, following its most competitive showing yet - but the former BTCC champ says the TT-R still needs major aerodynamic changes before it can be a true challenger to Mercedes and Opel

Aiello to stick with Audi in 2001?

Aiello put his car second on the timesheets in the second free practice session at Oschersleben, with only Bernd Schneider's Mercedes ahead, then attributed the leap in performance to his renewed link-up with race engineer Ludovic Lacroix and the Abt squad's relentless development programme.

Lacroix, who is now Yvan Muller's race engineer at Vauxhall's Triple Eight-run BTCC squad, engineered Aiello to his 1999 BTCC title with Nissan and the 1997 German Super Touring Championship with Peugeot. Under a lend-lease deal between Abt and Triple Eight, Lacroix engineered Aiello for the first time at the Lausitzring and will complete the season with Audi.

"Ludovic had to get used to the car at the Lausitzring," said Aiello. "But once he saw what needed doing, we were able to make progress. But having said that, the car has also improved a lot and this is a circuit I like, so everything has cometogether.

"This is the first time the DTM has come back to a circuit for the second time, so this is the first time we've really been able to show how much we've improved. I missed the first race because of Le Mans, but the team has found two minutes since June. I don't think Mercedes and Opel have improved by that much. That's a big morale booster for the team."

But despite the improvement, Aiello did concede that aerodynamic improvements were still needed.

"Oschersleben is the circuit that shows up our aerodynamic problems the least," he explained, "but we are still losing time to Mercedes and Opel because of our aerodynamics."

Aiello's fastest lap was made without the aid of a tow, making it even more impressive relative to the car's past form.

"I was in front of a Mercedes, then let him past," he recalled. "But then I was able to stay on his tail. I could see the guy watching me in his mirrors and thinking 'what the f***'s that Audi doing there?' He started making mistakes and even started blocking me. It's incredible!"

Aiello is still to commit to Audi for next season, but gave a clear indication that he wuld probably remain with Abt for a second full season - despite Audi's reticence in officially backing the project.

"This shows that things must be better next year," he said, "and I'm not the sort of man to give up. It's a good challenge for us during the winter to catch up with Mercedes and Opel. Also, I think this should be a good spur to get Audi more involved."

Aiello also admitted that his chances of returning to the BTCC in the near future were at an end.

"I would have liked to defned my BTCC title," he said, "but there was no opportunity for me."


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Oschersleben, free practice 2: Aiello second!
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