Monza: Qualifying 1 report

The 2005 FIA GT Championship got underway at the Italian circuit of Monza today, with free practice followed by two qualifying sessions. 28 cars were out on the track, including Corvette C5R, Ferrari 550 Maranello, Ferrari 575 M Maranello, ...

The 2005 FIA GT Championship got underway at the Italian circuit of Monza today, with free practice followed by two qualifying sessions. 28 cars were out on the track, including Corvette C5R, Ferrari 550 Maranello, Ferrari 575 M Maranello, Lamborghini Murciélago, Lister Storm, Maserati MC 12, Mosler MT900 R, Porsche 996 GT3-RS and Saleen S7, entered by teams from 11 different countries, with drivers from 17 nationalities, including 23 former race winners.

The times today were extremely close, despite difficult weather conditions, and bode well for the season ahead. With the top six cars, from four different teams, within seven tenths of a second - including four Maserati MC 12 cars and two Ferrari 550 Maranellos - and the Lamborghini and Corvette close behind, tomorrow's three-hour, 500 km race around the fast Monza circuit should be thrilling.

PHILIPP PETER CLAIMS POLE FOR JMB RACING

Despite only receiving the nr 16 JMB Racing Maserati MC 12 this week, and doing the shakedown during Thursday's test session, Austrian driver Philipp Peter claimed his first-ever FIA GT pole position today, lapping the 5.7930 Monza circuit in 1:45.699 during the first qualifying session. "It's my first pole position in the FIA GT and I am pretty happy. The programme for the car came together very late. Maserati has given us a car which has been great from the beginning. There was no shake-down for the car before we got here so it's quite a surprise."

He will start alongside the nr 9 Vitaphone Racing Team car, giving an all-Maserati front row for tomorrow's 500 km race. Michael Bartel's time was just one tenth slower than the JMB car, 1:45.699. "I am very happy with second position. We are on the right way, and in these conditions anything can happen. I think it is quite good base for the race tomorrow." Bartels said afterwards.

Third place on the grid will go to the nr 17 Russian Age Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello, Christophe Bouchut having set a time of 1:45.881, just eight hundredths slower than the Maserati. " We are very happy, especially as this is a brand new team. If we finish in the top 10 tomorrow we will be very pleased," Bouchut said. He will share the Ferrari tomorrow with Russian drivers Alexei Vasiliev and Nikolai Fomenko.

SUGDEN FASTEST IN GT2

Tim Sugden claimed pole position in the GT2 class, with a lap of 1:51.412 in the nr 88 Gruppe M Racing Porsche 996 GT3 RSR he shares with Frenchman Emmanuel Collard. "It is still very early days, but getting pole is great. Obviously, in a three-hour race it doesn't really matter where we are, but we are very happy."

Tim was closely followed by the second Gruppe M car, qualified by newcomer - and the youngest FIA GT competitor of the race - Mike Rockenfeller of Germany, three tenths slower. "It's a great result for the team, to be first and second. No one knows what will happen tomorrow, also with the weather, it's really difficult at the moment. So I'm pretty happy. It's nice to be here."

Italian team Ebimotors, with the nr 74 Porsche driven by former race winner Luigi Moccia and Emanuele Busnelli, was third-fastest in the category. "Everything is going well, and I am really happy," Luigi said.

EXCELLENT QUALIFYING FOR BALFE

With cars in the G2 class, for cars competing in National GT Championships, now allowed to compete in thel FIA GT on a non-Championship basis, the Mosler MT400 entered by Balfe Motorsport put in an excellent performance, qualifying just behind the two Gruppe M Porsches, and ahead of the third GT2 car. "We're incredibly pleased to be in this position in only our first qualifying performance," said Shaun Balfe later. "We are definitely making progress. We realised at the test day how much hard work we have to put in, so third place is a nice award.

My goal is to see the end of the race after the three hours, but I think the weather will be very difficult." Shaun shares the Mosler with Jamie Derbyshire, who drove a Creation Autosportif Lister in 2004, but who shared the Mosler in 2003 with Balfe in the British GT Championship.

-fia-

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Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Emmanuel Collard , Christophe Bouchut , Luigi Moccia , Tim Sugden , Emanuele Busnelli , Philipp Peter