Donington: Qualifying report

Weather As forecast, the weather has been wet at Donington today. It was raining at the start of the first qualifying session, although conditions gradually improved. The rain started again for the second session, and was harder than in the ...

Weather

As forecast, the weather has been wet at Donington today. It was raining at the start of the first qualifying session, although conditions gradually improved. The rain started again for the second session, and was harder than in the morning, pausing briefly but starting up harder than before.

Fifth pole position for Walter Lechner Jr.

Austrian driver Walter Lechner Jr, who turned 23 earlier this week, claimed his fifth FIA GT Championship pole position at Donington Park today. Seizing the moment, he put on intermediate tyres in the drying conditions at the end of the first qualifying session, and put in a lap of 1:40.747 in the nr 4 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7, to take provisional pole. With conditions worse in the afternoon, his time remained unbeaten. " I am very happy, as after the two practice sessions yesterday, I did not expect to be up here on pole today," he said. "But the rain and the difficult track situation helped me a lot. I want to say thank you to the team and to Pirelli, who gave us a very good intermediate tyre for tomorrow." With three poles for Lechner this year, and one for Michael Bartels, this is the fourth Saleen pole, as opposed to two for the Ferrari 550 Maranello.

The nr 4 Saleen will be followed by three Ferrari 550 Maranello cars, led by the nr 1 BMS Scuderia Italia of Bobbi and Gardel, with Livio, Calderari and Bryner third in the Care Racing car. The third and fourth rows of the starting grid will be filled with Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars, led by the nr 17 JMB Racing car of Wendlinger and Melo. The nr 7 RML Saleen, fastest in the wet afternoon session, will be ninth on the grid, ahead of the nr 28 GNM and nr 8 Saleens.

Collard takes pole for Freisinger Yukos Motorsport

Totally at home in the wet conditions, French driver Emmanuel Collard took pole position in the N-GT category with a lap of 1:45.155 in the first qualifying session. Jointly leading the classification with his team-mate Stéphane Ortelli and the two Freisinger Motorsport drivers, Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr, this is his second pole position after Anderstorp last year. "We were very happy with the car," he said. "We worked very hard on the wet conditions and found a good set-up; we also had a good tyre situation. But tomorrow it is likely to be dry, so I think we need to start everything again for tomorrow. I really like driving the car in these conditions." Second in N-GT was the nr 90 Porsche driven by Lucas Luhr, who improved at the very end of the first session. The teams from the British GT Championship had an excellent day, with JWR, Scuderia Ecosse and Gruppe M Europe qualifying in third, fourth and fifth positions respectively. The nr 62 GPC Ferrari was sixth, after losing much of the first session following a collision with the barriers. The two TVR Tuscan T400 R cars, running in the Spa 2 class , were 25th and 26th overall.

First qualifying session
Walter Lechner claims provisional pole on intermediates; Ortelli/Collard lead in N-GT

Wet conditions, which improved gradually during the session, gave a close and exciting first qualifying session around the Donington circuit. The times came down gradually. The nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen led at the start, with a best time of 1:43.668, followed by the nr 7 RML Saleen. After fifteen minutes, the BMS Ferrari 550 cars came to the fore, with first Gollin, then Bobbi, then Livio taking provisional pole in the nr 2, 1 and 3 cars respectively. After twenty minutes, Matteo Bobbi retook provisional pole with a lap of 1:41.927. This time remained fastest until Walter Lechner Jr, in the nr 4 Konrad Motorsport Saleen, put on intermediate tyres at the very end of the session. His lap of 1:40.747 put him on provisional pole. Bobbi improved his time to 1:41.394, but could not match the young Austrian. "It was difficult in the rain, and I was pushing hard, on the limit. I was sixth, and I decided to go on intermediate tyres, which were perfect. I hope it will rain later!" Lechner Jr said at the time. Bobbi took second, with the nr 3 Care Racing Ferrari third and the nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari, rebuilt after the fire damage yesterday after a heroic effort from the team, fourth. Karl Wendlinger was fifth in the nr 17 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello. The nr 5 Saleen was initially fifth, but lost its times due to overtaking under yellow flags.

The N-GT session was equally close and exciting, with the new teams pushing the regulars. The nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Porsche was fastest early on, with the nr 99 car taking the lead after 15 minutes with a time of 1:46.647. Almost immediately, the Ortelli/Collard car regained the lead, improving to 9th overall with a time of 1:45.627. The nr 65 Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari took second, and the nr 88 Gruppe M Porsche moved up to third. While the nr 50 car improved its time to 1:45.155, the nr 99 Freisinger Motorsport car went faster at the very end of the session, with a time of 1:45.616. This demoted the nr 65 car to third, with the nr 88 Porsche fourth. There were problems for the nr 62 GPC Ferrari, which hit the barriers early in the session and only completed four laps. There were also problems for the nr 59 Jens Petersen Porsche and the nr 69 Proton Competition car, which went off at the Old Hairpin.

Second Qualifying : Erdos and Jordan in the rain

Conditions were significantly wetter during the second session. Raining hard at the start and the end, there was just one drier period during the 45 minutes. The session started with Uwe Alzen, in the nr 5 Saleen, fastest on the track, as it began to recover after losing its morning times. The Saleen cars were best in the wettest conditions, with Tommy Erdos, in the nr 7 RML Saleen, setting the best times with a lap of 1:43.091, which he then improved to 1:43.034, moving up to 9th overall. The nr 62 GPC Ferrari, which had missed much of the morning session, also improved on its morning time.

The most significant improvement, however, was that of the nr 71 JWR Porsche 996 GT3, with Mike Jordan setting a lap of 1: 45.780, to leapfrog three cars in the N-GT category and take third position.

Overall, the nr 7 Saleen was fastest in the session, ahead of the nr 1 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari, with the nr 17 JMB Racing car third. The Creation Autosportif Lister was fourth, improving to 12th overall on the grid. In N-GT, the nr 71 JWR Porsche was fastest ahead of the nr 88 Gruppe M Porsche of Gocker and Mullen, with Pescatori and De Simone third in the nr 62 GPC Ferrari 360 Modena.

A number of cars lost some of their times in the session due to ride-height infringements and failing to stop for weighing procedures, including the nr 62 Ferrari, the nr 13 and 18 Ferrari 575 M Maranello and the nr 22 Ferrari 550 Maranello.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Karl Wendlinger , Emmanuel Collard , Stéphane Ortelli , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Uwe Alzen , Michael Bartels , Matteo Bobbi , Walter Lechner Jr. , Mike Jordan
Teams Proton Competition