Marcel F?ssler likes the A1-Ring. The Swiss youngster reprised his surprise 2002 DTM victory at the Austrian circuit on Sunday and, in doing so, ensured that the tight title battle will go on for at least another round.

Fassler (AMG-Mercedes CLK) won an exciting eighth round after holding off fellow Mercedes driver Bernd Schneider, who had been on his rear bumper for almost the entire duration of the race. However, despite the pressure, F?ssler succeeded in turning Saturday's pole position into his first victory of the season and, by restricting Schneider to second spot - just one ahead of another Mercedes title hopeful - Christijan Albers - kept the season-long battle simmering.

"The race was incredibly hard, I had to do everything to hold off Bernd," Fassler said afterwards, "In the process, I got a flat spot under braking and I got some problems with the brake balance. But, eventually, I made it - thanks to the HWA-team, which helped me with a sensationally quick pit-stop."

Motorsport director Norbert Haug praised the 27-year old Swiss, claiming that the performance marked Fassler out as something special.

"Anyone who withstands the pressure of somebody like Bernd Schneider for almost 40 laps has everything it takes to become a really big one," the burly German insisted.

Three-time F1 world champion Niki Lauda, who visited the DTM at the A1-Ring, was also impressed.

"The battle between F?ssler and Schneider was breath-taking until the end," he said, "Motor racing can't be better - Formula One could learn a lot from the DTM because, here, the fan gets more value for money."

Third place went to Albers, ensuring that just three points separate him from Schneider in the title race while, with his victory, F?ssler reduced his deficit eleven to nine points. Laurent Aiello, who finished fourth in Austria, holds a similar position in the championship, with 37 points.

"I am a little bit disappointed about the result," the reigning champion admitted afterwards, "because, after this morning's warm-up, I had hopes for a better result. I have pushed, but that was all I could do today, there was no way to beat Marcel and Bernd."

 

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