Estoril: Qualifying report

Weather -- ...

Weather -- #The sun has shone throughout today, and although the weather has been windy, the track has remained dry.

Pole position for Mike Hezemans

Mike Hezemans claimed pole position for tomorrow's ninth round of the FIA GT Championship, at the wheel of his nr 5 Force One Festina Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R, which he will share with Anthony Kumpen and Philippe Alliot.

This is Mike's first pole position since the A1-Ring in 2001, and comes after taking second place in qualifying in Oschersleben two weeks ago. "The Pirelli tyres have been very good all weekend, and we were also fastest in the second session. I do not know what we have to do to get to the end of the race, after eight consecutive non-finishes. Perhaps I need to go to church--" the driver from the Netherlands said. He will start alongside the nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello, Fabrizio Gollin having set a time of 1:36.661, four tenths slower than the Viper. Third place went to the nr 2 Konrad Saleen S7-R, which has started from pole position for the last two races, with Walter Lechner Jr just a tenth of a second behind the Ferrari. The two new Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars will start from fourth and fifth places for their debut race in the FIA GT Championship, with the nr 7 Graham Nash Saleen rounding off the top six.

Second consecutive pole for Andrea Bertolini

JMB Racing's Andrea Bertolini claimed his second pole position in a row, with a lap of 1:40.801 in the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena. The car only completed six laps today, having lost part of the first session due to a broken suspension, but the time set by Bertolini in the first part of the first session proved to be sufficient to claim pole. "I was in the car at the end of the second session, ready to go out in case anyone improved on my time," Andrea admitted. "The car is very good, and we now have to hope for tomorrow. I think it will be a very hard race on the brakes, the tyres and the drivers. We have worked hard on the car, the balance is good and it is fine on a full tank." Second was the nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena, Jamie Davies setting a time of 1:41.326, just ahead of the nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Sugden and Collard, the French driver setting a best time of 1:41.357 in this extremely close class.

Fourth place went to the second TMC Ferrari, with Ortelli and Lieb fifth in the Championship leading Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS, with the nr 57 MENX Ferrari 360 Modena of Janis and Pergl sixth.

First qualifying session : Hezemans fastest in GT; Bertolini leads the N-GT cars

An exciting and extremely close qualifying session saw Mike Hezemans eventually emerge as the fastest GT driver on the track, with his nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper. He started the session as the fastest, with a lap of 1:36.935, followed by the nr 22 BMS Ferrari of Gollin and Cappellari. Gollin was the next to take provisional pole, with a lap of 1:36.661, with the nr 2 Konrad Saleen S7-R improving to third. The two new Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars then began to show their speed, with the nr 10 taking second place with a time of 1:36.898, on just its third lap. Twenty minutes before the end, however, the nr 5 Chrysler Viper retook pole, with a time of 1:36.222. The nr 2 Konrad Saleen, which had dropped back to fifth behind the two Ferrari 575 cars, gradually improved its time, with Lechner Jr moving up to fourth and then finally third, with a time of 1:36.784 shortly before the chequered flag.

The top five cars were within seven tenths of a second; with the top ten cars setting laps within two seconds. The Championship leaders, Biagi and Bobbi in the nr 23 Ferrari, were sixth, ahead of the nr 7 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R, followed by a group of Lister Storms. The nr 15 Storm of Piccini and Sterckx was eighth, just ahead of the nr 19 Creation Storm of Gounon and Knapfield, and the nr 6 Storm of Verdon-Roe and Zadra. The nr 14 Lister was 12th, after suffering from a sticking throttle.

In N-GT, the session was equally close. The nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche led the times at the start of the 45-minute session, with a lap of 1:41.436, followed initially by the nr 57 MENX Ferrari and then by the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche. 15 minutes into the session, the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari took the lead, with a time of 1:40.801, which proved impossible to beat. The car only completed 6 laps in the session, coming into the pits with 22 minutes remaining, apparently with a problem with the front left suspension. The nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena moved up to second ahead of the EMKA Racing Porsche, with Davies and Turner setting a time of 1:41.326, while the team's second car took fourth with a time of 1:41.475 -- the cars in second, third and fourth place being only separated by just over a tenth of a second. Fifth place went to the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche of Ortelli and Lieb, with the nr 99 RWS Yukos Motorsport Porsche of Daoudi and Wolff sixth.

30 cars set a time in the session, with the nr 75 Eurotech car of David and Godfrey Jones failing to set a time, while the nr 8 car lost its times due to failing the ride-height test. The nr 11 Roos Optima Viper and the nr 16 Wieth Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello both also had times disallowed. The nr 57 MENX Ferrari lost its best time for failing to stop for scrutineering.

Second Qualifying Session : Force One and JMB Racing confirm their morning pace

The nr 5 Force One Festina Racing Chrysler Viper continued to be the fastest car on the track, setting a time of 1:36.841 during the second qualifying session, nearly four tenths faster than the nr 7 Saleen S7-R of Erdos and Newton, with the nr 23 Ferrari 550 Maranello of Bobbi and Biagi in third place, exactly a second behind the Viper. In N-GT, the best time was set by the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, with Fabrizio De Simone at the wheel, despite only completing 5 laps in order to test the car, after the suspension problems in the morning. The nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche was second, with the nr 57 MENX Ferrari 360 Modena of Janis and Pergl third.

There were few improvements during the session; the nr 7 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R was one of the few who managed to do so, with a time of 1:37.236 bringing them up from seventh to sixth. The team's nr 8 car, with an all-Portuguese crew, set a time of 1:40.378 to be placed 15th, having had its morning times removed after failing a ride-height test. The nr 11 Roos Optima Chrysler Viper GTS-R also improved by two tenths. The nr 75 Eurotech Porsche 996 GT3-RS, which missed the morning session due to an oil leak, got out on the track, setting a time of 1:44.883; the team is now changing the clutch on the nr 74 car, which qualified in 26th place. All 32 cars went out in the second qualifying session.

NOTES AND QUOTES

Mike Hezemans -- nr 5 Force One Festina Chrysler Viper GTS-R - Pole Position, GT : "It has been a long time since we last were on pole--. It is the tyres which have helped us in achieving this ! They worked very well here. The car does not change that much from one track to the other. Even in the second practice, we were the fastest on old tyres. However, we still have to finish a race ! One of our cars was destroyed at the previous round so we have so many mechanics here. Also, everything is brand new on our car. I do not what to do but to drive ! I can only hope for the best ! I may go to church tonight..."

Andrea Bertolini -- nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena -- Pole Position, N-GT: "We are very happy with this qualifying result. During the last three races, our car was very quick. Our Pirelli tyres are very quick and consistent. But the race will be difficult for the tyres and the brakes. I will see you tomorrow !"

Fabrizio Gollin -- nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello -- 2nd, GT : "I am very happy as my Ferrari is first, despite the arrival of the Ferrari 575. And I am sure that my 550 can still improve in the future! The only problem is that we do not have power steering, so you need to be very strong to drive the car. I hope for a good race tomorrow as my car and my tyres are always fast. The race for sure will be interesting."

Walter Lechner Jr -- nr 2 Konrad Saleen S7-R -- 3rd, GT: "I was really pushing hard. You could see it at every lap, especially at the end of the session with my second set of tyres. It was getting better all the time. The car was really good today and I did my best. The Dunlops worked well, but may be not as good as the Pirellis here. You cannot always be on pole. We have 30kg in the car, and as there is a lot of braking and accelerating here, this did not help is to do a better time in qualifying".

Jamie Davies -- nr 88 TMC Ferrari 360 Modena -- 2nd, N-GT : "The car seems to be working really well here. It is also quite an advantage to arrive at a circuit that we previously tested at and raced at. We started on the back foot for the last couple of races where we have not been at the circuits before. The car is just running faultlessly. Dunlop has produced a new tyre for us for this race and we are in good shape for tomorrow. We have to win though. I came here this weekend with only one thing on my mind : to win the race ! At the end of the day, that is what we have to do and we will be pushing as hard as we can to do that. It is looking quite good for us."

Tim Sugden -- nr 61 EMKA Porsche 996 GT-RS -- 3rd, N-GT: "Emmanuel (Collard), who set the time, is undergoing a routine anti-doping test with some other drivers. We are third on the grid but in the race, we should be quite good. There is no doubt that the Ferraris are very quick but we do not know how far they will be going in the race at that speed. We know that our car can do laps of 1.42 / 1.43 in the race for quite a while. So it looks good for the race. On this circuit, it is not possible to do only one stop with a Porsche".

Christian Pescatori -- nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello -- 4th, GT : "I am pleased for all the team. It has been a very difficult year for everyone. N-technology have worked extremely hard on this new car, and it is important to get a good result for everyone, especially the mechanics, Pirelli and everyone. We really need to finish these last two races, and to finish in good positions. The car is very different from the 550 Maranello, it has more grip, and it feels good from a driver's point of view, you can brake later. And inside, the dashboard is like a Formula One car ! We were pleased with our performance in qualifying; I only used one set of tyres, to keep one for tomorrow, and I think it has very good potential."

Bobby Verdon-Roe -- nr 6 Creation Lister Storm -- 10th, GT : "It has been an interesting weekend. My former Formula Renault engineer is helping us, and we have tried a lot of things, most of which have worked. The car goes very well on old tyres. However, it is no better on new tyres, which is the same problem we have had all season, and which is driving me demented. We just have no grip on new tyres. I am disappointed not to be further up the grid for my home race. But we know we have a good set-up for the race; we need to go half a second quicker a lap than previously, and I think we can do that. We are still aiming for the podium and I think it is a realistic aim."

Antonio Coimbra -- nr 8 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R --15th, GT : "I am enjoying myself a lot. I drove a lot yesterday in free practice, getting used to the car. I managed to go much quicker than I expected, and I am happy with my lap times. I have never driven a GT car before, having mainly raced in the BMW Junior, the Clio Cup, the MG Cup. The Saleen is impressive, very powerful, but easier to drive than I had expected."

Marc Lieb -- nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS -- 5th N-GT : "Our performance today has not been brilliant, but it has been OK. We finished Friday with a good set-up, but it was all wrong for qualifying; I don't know why. We worked hard but did not find the solution. The sessions were a complete waste of time. Our aim is to finish the race tomorrow in the points. We are not the quickest, so we have to be consistent. If we have one DNF; the whole Championship could be open again. We have to give our best and try to keep out of trouble, aiming for the points."

Fabio Vernier -- nr 70 Yellow Racing Ferrari 360 Modena - 16th, N-GT : "The car is brand new and we are racing it for the first time this weekend. We have only previously done around 40 laps in testing. We are therefore having some problems setting it up; which is normal with a new car. But the car is fantastic, and I know we can put it all together."

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Fabrizio Gollin , Christian Pescatori , Jamie Davies , Philippe Alliot , Anthony Kumpen , Mike Hezemans , Marc Lieb , Tim Sugden , Andrea Bertolini , Godfrey Jones , Bobby Verdon-Roe , Antonio Coimbra