Qualifying: Aiello heads Abt Audi one-two

Laurent Aiello, who raved about his stretched Audi TT-R's potential at the DTM season-opener two weeks ago, proved its potency with pole position for round two at the Nurburgring. The former BTCC champion headed up rookie Martin Tomczyk in a one-two on the grid for the privateer Abt squad.

Qualifying: Aiello heads Abt Audi one-two

It was Audi's first DTM pole since Frank Biela put a V8 Quattro on the top spot at the Avus street track in 1992 and its first front row slot since the new-style DTM cranked into life at the start of 2000.

Aiello, who set his time with just under five minutes of the grey and cold 45-minute session remaining, was assured of his maiden DTM pole when Mercedes ace Bernd Schneider stopped the clocks just 0.230s shy on his last-gasp flyer after problems with yellow flags and gravel on the track.

Schneider lines up third, with fellow Merc drivers Marcel Fassler and Tomas Jager fourth and fifth. It was a particularly impressive result for Jager, whose Persson-run CLK is a 2000-spec car.

Christian Abt in the third of the four Audis completed the top six, with Mattias Ekstrom putting the remaining TT-R eighth in an incredible afternoon for the DTM's underdogs.

"I'm very happy with the pole," said Aiello. "It means a lot to me, but I always work on the final result of the weekend - what happens in the race itself - so if I can stay in this position for the races, I'm going to be very, very happy."

Team boss Hans-Jurgen Abt added: "Aiello predicted it yesterday and I thought he was kidding. We've suffered a lot over the last year or so, but we've also learnt a lot, and now the hard work is paying off."

Tomczyk was regarded as a risk when the team signed him up to its junior programme with Ekstrom, but the son of the ADAC's competitions director proved he could mix it with his front-row slot.

"I can't believe it yet," said the former Formula 3 driver. "I made a slight mistake on my quick lap, but when I saw I was second I didn't believe it at first. These cars are very difficult to drive, but I learnt from F3 that you have to drive a very smooth line and it paid off."

With Audi going into tomorrow's race with only one long run under its belt - the race at Hockenheim - Schneider still looks something of a favourite for victory.

"I'm looking forward to an exciting race with the Audis," said the reigning DTM champ. "On my final flyer, Patrick (Huisman) had put a lot of gravel down at the first chicane and then there were still yellows waving where they'd towed away Hubert Haupt's Opel, so two little problems meant third on the grid.

"I'm not surprised that the Audi was so fast here," he added. "They've been good here last year anyway, so with the new 'limousine', they're obviously going to be a factor."

Top Opel on another bleak afternoon for the currently struggling marque was Yves Olivier's 2000-spec Astra, but that was way down in 10th place. Motorsport chief Volker Strycek said the team was making steady progress, but there was no single reason as to why the Russelsheim marque was still so far from the pace. Best 2001-spec Opel was Timo Scheider, marooned in 13th in his Holzer-run example.

"It's not what we wanted or expected," he said, "but at least we have improved a bit. We are only around nine tenths down on the Mercedes times, which is less than Hockenheim, but on a far longer track."

Peter Dumbreck was best of the British contingent, taking ninth for the D2 AMG squad, but he was caught out by using his allotted 12 laps too early in the session, before the track was at its fastest. Darren Turner also used his laps too early in the 45 minutes and wound up a disappointed, and somewhat unrepresentative 18th in his Rosberg-run 2000-spec car. Reigning British Touring Car Champion Alain Menu was 19th for Opel Euroteam.

The qualifying order provides the grid for Sunday's seven-lap sprint race (14:15 BST, 15:15 local time), with the sprint result providing the grid for the day's longer, 22-lap pit stop race.


Laurent Aiello, 2001 Abt Audi TT-R, 1m37.025s
Martin Tomczyk, 2001 Abt Audi TT-R, 1m37.194s
Bernd Schneider, 2001 D2 AMG Mercedes CLK, 1m37.255s
Marcel Fassler, Warsteiner AMG Mercedes CLK, 1m37.271s
Tomas Jager, 2000 Persson Mercedes CLK, 1m37.275s
Christian Abt, 2001 Abt Audi TT-R, 1m37.410s
Christijan Albers, 2000 Persson Mercedes CLK, 1m37.615s
Mattias Ekstrom, 2001 Abt Audi TT-R, 1m37.716s
Peter Dumbreck, 2001 D2 AMG Mercedes CLK, 1m37.787s
Yves Olivier, 2000 Phoenix Opel Astra V8 Coupe, 1m37.793s
Uwe Alzen, 2001 Warsteiner AMG Mercedes CLK, 1m37.928s
Pedro Lamy, 2000 Rosberg Mercedes CLK, 1m38.016s
Timo Scheider, 2001 Holzer Opel Astra V8 Coupe, 1m38.026s
Bernd Maylander, 2001 Manthey Mercedes CLK, 1m38.209s
Jo Winkelhock, 2001 Holzer Opel Astra V8 Coupe, 1m38.225s
Patrick Huisman, 2001 Manthey Mercedes CLK, 1m38.276s
Manuel Reuter, 2001 Phoenix Opel Astra V8 Coupe, 1m38.279s
Darren Turner, 2000 Rosberg Mercedes CLK, 1m38.367s
Alain Menu, 2001 Euroteam Opel Astra V8 Coupe, 1m38.550s
Michael Bartels, 2001 Holzer Opel Astra V8 Coupe, 1m38.867s
Hubert Haupt, 2000 Euroteam Opel Astra V8 Coupe, 1m39.992s
Peter Mamerow, 2000 Mamerow Opel Astra V8 Coupe, 1m40.376s





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