In the season opener of the DTM at the Hockenheimring yesterday, Abt-Audi followed up its strong qualifying performance as French driver Laurent Aiello won with his Abt-Audi TT-R, from team-mate Mattias Ekstr?m. Jean Alesi, who was in Formula 1 only last year, claimed third place in the first DTM-race of his career with his Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM. Timo Scheider was best Opel-driver: after a duel with reigning champion Bernd Schneider, he finished fifth in front of more than 56,000.

"I am totally happy", said Laurent Aiello. "Our car has a very good basis and has some room for improvement for the next rounds." During the break between the races, this was proved by the Team Abt Sportsline. "In the qualification race, my Audi Coup? oversteered, then we made some changes and the car was excellent."

Aiello's team mates Mattias Ekstr?m, Karl Wendlinger (sixth) and Christian Abt (seventh) completed Abt-Audi's strong performance. Martin Tomczyk however retired. He had won the qualification race, but, at the start of the main race, he stalled his engine and spun off the track later on.

Team principal Hans-J?rgen Abt commented: "Martin still has to learn, not to want too much at once after a good performance. All in all, I am very happy. The last time that our team celebrated a double victory was also in the opening round of a season. In that year, we became champions at the end of the season - a good omen."

Frenchman Jean Alesi showed some impressive overtaking on his DTM-debut. Having started 14th in the qualification race, he made up six places to finish eighth. In the main race, he finally succeeded in making up five more positions and finished in third place. In the process, he also overtook his team mate Bernd Schneider.

"I am proud of being on the podium after such a long time, and this in a championship, in which competition is so close and so many good drivers are taking part", said Alesi, who threw his race helmet into the fan crowd for sheer enthusiasm.

Mercedes-Benz motorsport director Norbert Haug: "Jean is a good thing for the entire scene, he has a lot of sympathy for the DTM and for our brand." As far as the performance of the Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM is concerned, Haug still sees potential: "Our car understeered a lot, therefore, we were not able to achieve good lap times. That can be different at the next round already. I am happy that all three makes are competitive."

Opel works-driver Timo Scheider scored two points for finishing in fifth place. "After I had lost two positions at the start, I dropped back behind Bernd Schneider and drove behind him for a long time. I was a little bit quicker than him, but I couldn't get past. Because of my attacks, I more or less ruined my front tyres, which caused understeer. Towards the end of the race, I concentrated on keeping my position."

Scheider's fellow-Opel-driver Manuel Reuter, who started into the race from the second row on the grid, didn't achieve a countable result because of a blown tyre. Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek: "For us, the speed is certainly there, we can keep the pace of the others. Now, we just have to practice better starts. Opel is back again - knowing that is important for all of us."

Result main race:

1 Laurent Aiello Abt-Audi 39min06.877secs
2 Mattias Ekstr?m Abt-Audi 39min09.611
3 Jean Alesi Mercedes-Benz 39min16.940
4 Bernd Schneider Mercedes-Benz 39min22.325secs
5 Timo Scheider Opel 39min24.495secs
6 Karl Wendlinger Abt-Audi 39min26.990secs
7 Christian Abt Abt-Audi 39min28.286secs
8 Thomas J?ger Mercedes-Benz 39min51.634secs
9 Alain Menu Opel 39min52.077secs
10 Joachim Winkelhock Opel 39min52.740secs
Points standings:

Laurent Aiello 12
Mattias Ekstr?m 7
Jean Alesi 4
Bernd Schneider 3
Martin Tomczyk 3
Timo Scheider 2
Karl Wendlinger 1


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