When he claimed the trophy in 2002, Laurent Aiello became the first non-German driver to win a championship title in the newly created Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters.
In this part of the series profiling the past champions of the DTM, we look at the multi-touring car title winning Frenchman, Laurent Aiello.
Born in Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, Aiello began his racing career in karting, taking a French Kart Championship title hat trick, with success in 1983, ’84 and ’85.
From there he progressed to single seaters, with a drive in the French Formula 3 Championship. He took the title in 1992. He also competed in the International Formula 3000 Championship, but his time wasn’t successful.
Aiello made the switch to tin-top racing in 1993, competing in the French Superturismo Championship. He finished 2nd in the championship that year driving for BMW, before moving to Peugeot in ’94 where he claimed the championship trophy. He finished third overall in 1995.
In 1996, Aiello moved over the border to compete in the German Super Tourenwagen Cup, remaining with Peugeot.
Aiello enjoyed almost mirror success to his time in the French Superturismo Championship, winning in the middle of his three seasons in the series, and narrowly losing out in the first and second season.
Even though he missed out on the German Super Tourenwagen Cup title in 1998, he did enjoy success on home soil in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. He won his class, GT1, at the wheel of a Porsche.
1999 saw Aiello head to Britain to compete for Nissan in the British Touring Car Championship. In his sole season in the series, Aiello claimed the driver’s title.
From there Aiello moved back to racing in Germany in the newly formed DTM. In the new series’ debut season, 2000, he lined up on the grid for Audi, driving the TT-R.
His first season saw him finish a lowly 16th in the standings, but he performed significantly better in 2001 ending the year 5th.
Having won a title in every touring car series he has competed in, a championship win was almost inevitable, and in 2002 Aiello duly delivered.
Still at the wheel of the Audi TT-R, he took the title, after fending off seasoned veteran Bernd Schneider, as well as rising star Mattias Ekström.
In winning the title, he broke the early German, specifically Bernd Schneider, domination of the DTM.
2003 saw Aiello slip down the championship standings, and a switch to Opel to drive the Vectra GTS V8 in both 2004 and 2005 yielded little success.
At the end of the 2005 season, Laurent Aiello announced his retirement from full time motorsport.
Next in the Past Champions series: Mattias Ekström