Peugeot in the STW. Let’s go back in the history of German touring car racing: STW stands for Super Tour Wagen Cup and was the successor of the German topper DTM in the second half of the nineties. After a great time in the 1970s and 1980s with Ford, BMW, Porsche and later Audi, Alfa Romeo and Mercedes, the DTM had become too expensive and suffered from anemia. Only Opel with its Calibra and Mercedes with its C-class were still participants. DTM fell to its own greatness, but STW was a worthy successor.
First of all, it was cheaper and accessible to a much larger group of participants, just as DTM had once started. A diversity of brands with “real” touring cars, or pepped up four-door sedans. Opel with the Vectra, Audi A4, BMW 320, Honda Accord, Nissan Primera and Alfa Romeo with its 156, but a completely different one from the old, wide DTM-Alfa 156.
Two years after STW was introduced, Peugeot also took part in the now well-grown German touring car championship. Due to the number of spectators and the enormous attention from television, STW was one big, mobile commercial. Laurent Aiello was the undisputed lead driver of the French factory team, having won the French Super Tourisme Championship multiple times with the Peugeot 405 MI16.
In 1996 he won an STW competition three times and finished third in the championship. The big Peugeot success came in 1997, with eleven wins out of twenty rounds and eight pole positions out of ten possibilities. And of course: Peugeot became STW champion in 1997! 1998 was the edge: six games won and second in the final standings of the championship. In the last race at the Hockenheimring, Aiello was sadly beaten by BMW driver and ex-motorcycle world champion Johnny Cecotto.
Laurent Aiello has since steadily built on his reputation as the best touring car driver in the world. His teammates were very experienced German drivers. Altfrid Heger was his teammate in 1996, a real routine from BMW. He familiarized Aiello with all German circuits and added a lot to the set up of the new 406.
Then came Jörg von Ommen. From the end of the seventies he had made his mark with various Fords (Escort and Capri) of the Zakspeed team. Both drivers were well-known names in German touring car racing.
No succes in UK
Echter, de 406 was nooit succesvol in het prestigieuze BTCC (British Touring Car Championships). Zo goed als het in Duitsland ging, zo moeilijk was het gelijktijdig in Engeland. Net als in het voetbal staan de Engelse toerwagenraces bekend om hun rauwe, pure, harde competitie. Engelse coryfeeën Patrick Watts en Tim Harvey konden nog geen race winnen in de krachtigste auto van het deelnemersveld: een 406 met maar liefst 310 pk!
But they were beautiful to look at: bright red in 1996 with a blue band with 406 logo, then – in 1997 and 1998 – it became a kind of British racing green with gold lettering; very stylish and yet still “racy”.
The first successful racing computer game on the market at the time was Toca 2, a copy of the BTCC championship on your home screen. Although your reporter tried many times at the time, even in this computer game the 406 couldn’t break pots.
With Laurent Aiello, Peugeot made a golden move. He was named the best touring car driver in the world in the late nineties, as he managed to win the French Super Tourisme Championship, the German STW and the English BTCC Championship. A touring car triple of an unparalleled level! He did not achieve the BTCC title with the two-liter, four-cylinder Peugeot 406 with 16 valves, but with a different brand.
Aiello did have Formula 1 aspirations, but he was passed as the third McLaren driver by his much more experienced fellow countryman Philippe Alliot. Later he also tested for Jordan. Incidentally, both brands drove with Peugeot engines. Only once was Aiello with his 406 in the Netherlands at work, in 1998 in Assen, where he won both motos.
Goodbye to Peugeot
After obtaining the BTCC title, Aiello returned to Germany in 2000. It appeared at the start in the same yellow color as his trusted 406, but now with an Audi TT instead of the Peugeot. Beer brewer Hasseröder was again his main sponsor. The Audi TT brought him countless DTM victories, crowned again with the DTM title in 2002.
In addition, Aiello started in the Le Mans series in Europe and America with an Audi R8. He had already proven himself in this sports car class in 1998 by winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Porsche 911 GT1. In 2004 and 2005 he also drove Opel Vectra again in the DTM. Less successful, but not because of its declining driver abilities.
Lack of success made him decide to quit touring car racing in 2005 and take part in jet ski competitions. Here too he became champion again. A passionate driver, that Laurent Aiello! And a good choice from Peugeot, with which brand he made his breakthrough.