The first guest appearance of the new-look DTM series in Italy is being considered a highlight on the 2003 calendar of Europe's premier touring car series, and the Abt Sportsline team, spearheaded by champion Laurent Aiello, has clearly defined goals for this weekend's race at the Adria International Raceway.

After being beaten by Mercedes-Benz in round one at Hockenheim, the team wants revenge and, for the first time in over a year, is playing the role of the hunter again. In April 2002, Aiello had decided the opening round in his favour and never lost the championship lead for the duration of the season, but the situation is now different.

"This is a role we can live with very well," admitted team director Hans-J?rgen Abt, "We will put the pressure on."

During a pre-season test session at Adria, some of the Abt drivers got used to the tight new Adria circuit, located some 70 kilometres south of Venice. At 2.702km, it is the second shortest track on the calendar, and is almost entirely made up of narrow corners and hairpins. There are no long straights for the drivers to relax on, so the 47 laps in the mild Italian climate could prove to be a hard test for drivers and cars alike.

"That doesn't worry me in the least," Abt continued positively, "Our car is reliable in all conditions and our drivers have been preparing themselves very well, both individually and during a fitness week with the entire team."

"I have never driven at the Adria circuit, but I have heard that the track is even narrower than at Oschersleben," Aiello said, "I like that, because tracks on which it comes down to the driver generally suit me. Of course, our fitness is even more important there, but that's no problem to me - at Hockenheim, I could have done another 20 laps as well. My goal definitely is a podium finish, and maybe a little revenge for the season opener at Hockenheim."

Red Bull-backed team-mate Karl Wendlinger is not such a fan of the tight and twisty layout, however.

"My favourite tracks look different compared to the Adria Raceway, but I am sure that it will be a hot racing weekend," the Austrian said, "The cars will be very close together but there are little opportunities for overtaking. It is all the more important making it into the superpole and trying to reach the best possible grid position."

Because of the limited opportunities for overtaking, the timed practice and the subsequent superpole sessions are likely to be especially important, but is a discipline that is now fairly well known to the Abt drivers. At the debut of the new qualifying system at Hockenheim, five Abt-Audi TT-Rs made it into the top ten and thus were allowed to participate in the all-important single-lap qualifying.

"This strong team performance made me very happy, as it showed that we have prepared a car during the winter with which all of our drivers are able to do well", Abt said.

For Christian Abt, the trip to Italy is sure to bring back happy memories - and he is keen to repeat his achievements from previous visits.

"I am looking forward to the race at the Adria, because I have fond memories of Italy," he agreed, "During the last race there, in 1999 with the STW at Misano, I had a great fight with Uwe Alzen. I overtook him on the final lap and then went on to win. So far, that was my last victory in touring cars, so it is about time to end that run."

Another of the Abt drivers, Swede Mattias Ekstr?m, will be making his first visit to Italy, and is determined to put a poor - by his standards - opening round firmly behind him.

"I had different expectations about my start of this season," he admitted, "Therefore, I can hardly wait for the next race, in order to further increase my points score. For sure, the single point I scored at Hockenheim is feeling very lonely."