Hot, hot, hot -- the temperatures have risen steadily through the day, with the track temperatures rising well above 50. The teams are reporting temperatures above 70C in their cars, with the metallic parts such as the pedals at boiling point.
BMS DRIVER BOBBI TAKES SECOND POLE OF THE YEAR
2003 Champion Matteo Bobbi, with a lap of 1:56.182 in the second qualifying session, took his second pole position of the year and his third of his GT career. The nr 1 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello, which has only 5 kg penalty weight for this race, has been fast throughout the meeting, and was already second after the first session. "This has been a good day for us. We've found a good set-up at the beginning of the weekend. Fortunately, our car is fast both on new and on old tyres. The only problem we have is the heat, which is something that's going to be an issue for most drivers tomorrow. We just have to try and keep our concentration up, which will be difficult under these conditions. Anyway, I've got nothing to lose." He will be joined on the first row by the nr 34 AF Corse Maserati MC 12, while the second Maserati car will share the second row with the nr 11 GPC Ferrari 575 M Maranello of Morbidelli and Babini, which had put in an excellent performance but missed a possible front-row starting spot due to traffic on Babini's fastest lap.
PESCATORI CLAIMS N-GT POLE FOR GPC GIESSE
GPC Giesse's Christian Pescatori took pole position for Friday's race, with a lap of 2:02.946 set in the morning session. "My Ferrari has been very quick in qualifying today without the fuel load; it's very fast in the slow corners in particular. The problem is always the race. The conditions tomorrow will be very difficult. We've had a lot of bad luck this season, I can only hope it's going to turn around now." He will start from 20th place on the grid. Unlike the GT class, the afternoon did not change the N-GT qualifying order, and the Ferrari will be followed tomorrow by the nr 99 and nr 50 Porsches, whose drivers are fighting for the title. The all-Russian Freisinger Yukos Porsche was fourth, ahead of the nr 64 GPC Ferrari and the nr 88 Gruppe M Europe Porsche of Lieb and Sugden.
FIRST QUALIFYING : PROVISIONAL POLE POSITION FOR THE MASERATI MC12 AND GPC FERRARI 360
Mika Salo placed the nr 33 Maserati MC 12 - with 100 kg penalty weight - on provisional pole position for Friday's 500 km, three-hour race. The Finnish driver, who joined the Championship at Spa with the GPC Ferrari 575 M Maranello before driving the AF Corse Maserati from Imola onwards, was happy with his time of 1:56.714 around the 5.39 km circuit : "It was a good lap, I didn't have anyone in front of me - no traffic whatsoever. I think the track will get better in the afternoon, with the rubber wearing off, but we won't use a second set of tyres. We're happy to start in the first two rows, that's enough for us."
In N-GT , the best time was set by the nr 62 GPC Ferrari 360 Modena. A lap of 2:02.946 placed Christian Pescatori on provisional pole : "I didn't have any traffic, so I could do a very good lap. In a race like this, it's not really important to start from the first position, though. It's a long race; and it's going to be very hot! We used only one set of new tyres in the qualifying, because we want to start the race on four new tyres! We will just try out some set-up things in the second qualifying."
The Saleen cars led early on, with first the nr 4 Konrad car on provisional pole, with the nr 28 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen improving to 1:58.785, almost immediately superseded by the 1:58.281 set by the nr 33 MC 12. Eight minutes into the session, however, the nr 33 improved again, setting a time of 1:56.714 which gained Salo provisional pole, as no-one else was able to better it.
Matteo Bobbi came close, however. The Italian took second place with a lap of 1:57.950 fifteen minutes into the session. His time was overtaken by the nr 34 Maserati of Herbert and De Simone five minutes later, but Bobbi responded, nine minutes before the end, with a time of 1:56.744 which guaranteed his second place, just three hundredths of a second behind the Maserati. The nr 34 remained in third place, followed by the nr 11 GPC Giesse Ferrari 575 M Maranello, which was fourth for much of the session, improving its time again in the dying minutes to 1:57.959. The Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7 finished up in fifth position, ahead of the nr 7 RML Saleen of Erdos and Newton. Bartels and Alzen, who missed much of yesterday due to a fire in the car, finished ninth. However, the team has changed the engine and the nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen will therefore start from the back of the grid.
In N-GT, the nr 99 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche led early on, ahead of the nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Porsche. Ten minutes into the session, the nr 62 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche took provisional pole, with a lap of 2:02.946, which remained the best time for the class. Pescatori and Melo were followed by the three Freisinger Porsches - Maassen and Luhr ahead of Ortelli and Collard, with the all-Russian car of Vasiliev and Fomenko fourth. The second GPC Giesse Ferrari 360, entered by Vincent Vosse, Luca Drudi and Marco Lambertini, was fifth, with Lieb and Sugden sixth in the nr 88 Gruppe M Europe Porsche, which arrived yesterday evening after delays flying the car in after the last weekend's British GT Championship in Brands Hatch.
SECOND QUALIFYING : BOBBI GRABS POLE; NO CHANGE IN N-GT
Unusually for this season in the FIA GT Championship, the second qualifying session turned out to be faster than the morning. Matteo Bobbi, just three hundredths behind the leading Maserati in the morning, managed to take half a second off the best lap time so far to claim his second pole position of the season.
Early on, the nr 35 Scuderia Veregra Chrysler Viper, which had not set a qualifying time in the morning, improved to 18th, with a lap of 2:01.408. The team further improved later in the session, but remained 18th for tomorrow's start. The nr 5 was the first of the leading cars to make a bit improvement, moving up to 5th position.
Half an hour into the session, Matteo Bobbi put in a lap of 1:56.541, to claim provisional pole from Mika Salo. Bobbi improved his time again, with a time of 1:56.182. The Maserati cars, which only came out briefly towards the end of the session, replied to this with a lap of 1:56.599 set by Fabrizio De Simone, taking second place ahead of the nr 33 Maserati, which is carrying 100 kg penalty weight. The nr 11 Ferrari 575 M Maranello remained fourth, but improved its time by half a second. The nr 28 Graham Nash car was the fastest of the Saleen cars, improving from17th in the morning to an excellent fifth, Paolo Ruberti at the wheel. The nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen qualified sixth, after suffering another minor fire in the pit lane.
In N-GT, there were fewer changes. The nr 62 GPC Ferrari was fastest, ahead of the three Freisinger Porches, with the nr 64 GPC Ferrari fifth. The nr 68 Proton Porsche driven by Horst Felbermayr and Horst Felbermayr Jr improved its time by 6 seconds.
A number of stewards decisions after the end of scrutineering saw the nr 10 Zwaan's Racing Viper, the nr 18 JMB Racing Ferrari and the nr 77 Freisinger Yukos Porsche lose all their times set during the second session, due to failing the ground clearance, while the nr 68 Porsche also lost its second qualifying times to do a problem with the left front tyre identification. This dropped the nr 18 car from 9th to 15th, and the nr 68 car from eighth to tenth in N-GT, the grid positions of the other cars being unaffected as they set their best times in the morning.