Adenau, June 1, 2003
Only months after the sensational title win in the DTM, the Team Abt
Sportsline has added another successful chapter to its motorsport history.
In the Nürburgring 24 Hour race, the team with support from the quattro
GmbH, occupied second place, which was its best-ever result in the classic
endurance race around the famous Nordschleife. After 138 laps, Kris
Nissen, Karl Wendlinger, Marco Werner and Christian Abt left the opposition,
from BMW to Porsche, behind them. At the finish, they were only beaten by
the fastest Opel.
Almost 200,000 spectators around the 25.947 kilometres long track saw
one of the most exciting races of the past few years. Next to the two Abt-Audi
TT-Rs, based on the championship-winning car from the DTM, the two Opel
Astra V8 Coupés were the main actors. The over 450 hp strong touring cars
were racing each other around the Nordschleife for almost the entire
duration of the race. The best indication for the excitement in the Eifel: in the
early hours of Sunday morning, the teams of Abt Sportsline and Opel were
separated by only one tenth of a second.
As it happens so often in endurance racing, the time spent in the pits
decided about victory or second place. After one and a half hours already,
the Abt-Audi TT-R with starting number 8 took the lead for the first time and –
save for some position changes during the pit stops – defended its lead
until Sunday morning. Apart from planned tyre changes and minor repairs,
the TT-R was running like clockwork, the drivers successfully dealing with
the difficult overtaking manoeuvres against the slower competitors in the
210 car strong field.
In the morning, however, the silver-red coloured TT-R, sporting the “S line”
brandmark for the sports packages from the quattro GmbH had to pay the
price for the huge pressure on the Nordschleife: a problem with the power
supply was followed by gearbox trouble, reported to the box on the radio by
Marco Werner. The team decided to carry out a complete and elaborate
change of the gearbox, completed by the mechanics in an absolute record
time, in spite of a night without sleep. After some 40 minutes, including a
tyre change and refuelling, they got their driver back on the track, but it was
too much to be still a challenger for the Opel that had taken the lead.
The sister car, the Abt-Audi TT-R with the starting number seven, appeared
to attract bad luck in the Eifel: changing of the power steering pump and the
gearbox and repair of a defective brake system deprived Christian Abt, Frank
Biela and Mattias Ekström from any chance of victory. Having dropped back
to 140th place at some stage, the trio of DTM and sports car drivers still
made it into the top 30. Thus, Abt Sportsline brought both cars home during
the first outing of current DTM-cars in the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring.