Laurent Aiello, the 2002 DTM Champion, made for very emotional moments, during the EuroSpeedway Lausitz DTM weekend. At his own press conference, the Frenchman announced – with tears in his eyes – to definitely retire from motor racing, at the end of the 2005 season. The journalists and team members of Opel, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, who attended the press conference, saw the likeable Frenchman off with applause and standing ovations.
“I have decided to end my career. I have received so much reward in motor racing, but now I’m tired of competition”, the Frenchman explained after qualifying on Saturday. “Thanks to my sponsors, the fans, my mechanics and engineers, my team mates, the manufacturers, my parents, my wife and my children.”
“In his 25-year career ranging from karting to sports cars, Laurent Aiello has established a track record that would be every racing driver’s dream”, Opel’s motor sport director Volker Strycek underlined. “We cordially thank him for his commitment and his good teamwork for Opel in the past two years. Especially in Germany, where Laurent has been competing for the major part of his professional career, he will be reminded by all motor sport fans as a fair sportsman, a real fighter and a characteristic personality.”
Aiello, who has raced a Vectra GTS V8 in the DTM for the past two seasons, won his first motor racing title in karting in his home country France in 1983, aged 14. In 1988, he competed in the karting world championship and then stepped up to race in French Formula 3. “My maiden Formula 3 victory in Monaco is my most beautiful race win to date”, Aiello confesses. From 1992 onwards, his career has been marked by a unique spell of successes: in every championship in which he competed, he did not only win races, but also championship titles. In 1992, he won his national Formula 3000 championship.
In 1994, he became French Super Touring champion. In 1996, he started racing in Germany and won the German Super Touring Car Cup with Peugeot one year later. After that, he was respectfully called the “Michael Schumacher of front-wheel drive racing” by his team-mates and rivals, but in the years to follow, he proved that he could master rear-wheel driven machinery at least just as well. In 1998, he won the Le Mans 24 Hours with Stéphane Ortelli and Allan McNish in a Porsche, followed by the title in the 1999 British Touring Car Championship with Nissan, again in a front-wheel driven car.
“That was my most difficult title, as I only had one year to get to know the team, the series, the car and the tracks”, says Aiello.
Since the revival of the DTM in 2000, he has competed in this championship. Two wins in the 2001 DTM season and the sports car victory with Audi in the Sebring 12 Hours, four DTM race victories and the title with the Abt-Audi in 2002 and another victory for his championship-winning team in 2003 clearly testify to his excellent performance of the past years. “The DTM is the most prestigious of all touring car series. Bernd Schneider gave me the most beautiful compliment anyone ever gave me”, Aiello says. “He once said that I am the most versatile touring car driver, having won titles in all these different series.”
Off the race track, the 36-year old father of a daughter and a son is a passionate jet-ski and music fan. Even in the DTM, Aiello frequently featured as a DJ at parties. At the Nürburgring, Aiello had music played into his helmet for the first time in qualifying. “Fifth place on the grid was a nice reward for the team that made this possible”, Aiello says.