FIA GT Championship Round 9 First Qualifying Session
Grey, wet and cold, with temperatures hovering around 9°C. A heavy shower half an hour before the first qualifying session meant that the track was damp, and it was declared a wet practice. However, some sun broke through early on, and the track began to dry.
First qualifying Session 2A continuously drying track meant that the first qualifying session turned into a gamble, depending on tyre choice. Times came down gradually through the session, improving until the very end. With full-course yellows just before the end of the session, the final three minutes of green-flag racing saw a total change of the results. Almost every car on the track improved on the very final lap, after the chequered flag fell.
Prodrive Ferrari on provisional GT pole
After winning the previous round at the A1 Ring, Rickard Rydell, driving the nr 15 Prodrive Ferrari, set the best time in the first qualifying session, with a lap of 1:47.344. The nr 4 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R was second fastest, with a time of 1:47.761, with the nr 2 Lister Storm third. The nr 9 ART Chrysler Viper put in their best qualifying performance of the season and take part in their first Superpole session. The nr 11 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper set the fifth time, with the nr 7 Larbre Competition Viper taking the final place in sixth. The nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper initially failed to make the Superpole, due to problems with a broken splitter. However, the nr 11 Paul Belmondo Racing Viper did not pass the post-session scrutineering, failing to comply with the Championship regulations concerning ground clearance. The car’s times were cancelled, and therefore the nr 3 was promoted to the Superpole group. The nr 12 Paul Belmondo Viper, which had been fast for much of the session, lost out in the tyre gamble at the end and was 12th overall.
Orlando Porsche on provisional N-GT pole
Philip Peter, who has been among the fastest N-GT drivers all weekend, set the best time in the N-GT category in the first qualifying session. His nr 69 Redolfi Orlando Porsche 996 GT3-R had also been fast in the wettest part, and survived the final rush to qualify for the Superpole with a time of 1:49.307– only one tenth of a second slower than the nr 3 Carsport Viper and less than two seconds off the pole. Second in the N-GT category was the nr 57 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche, driven by Stephane Ortelli, with Championship leader Luca Riccitelli third in the nr 77 RWS Motorsport Porsche. Fabio Babini was fourth in the nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche, with the Larbre Competition Porsche, and the Perspective Porsche also improving on the final lap to qualify for the Superpole. Championship contenders JMB failed to make the Superpole single-lap session with their nr 62 Ferrari Modena 360.
Mike Jordan– nr 1 Lister Storm : "It was really good at the start– Laurence told me to go out and do five steady laps. And then he came on the radio, and told me I was P1, and to stay out. It was a real mark of confidence. I eventually came in and handed over to Jamie. But it was great to be out there at the start– at one point I caught the Prodrive and passed it. Everything is working well. But Jamie was on wets at the end– literally wrong place at the wrong time. The car is really, really good. If it does rain, we’ll be in pretty good shape. A bit more dry running would be good for me. But the car is very similar to the one I drive in the British Championship, so I’m quite confident. "
Nicolaus Springer– nr 2 Lister Storm : "We were in the right place at the right time– and Julian is always good for a last minute surprise. As for me, I was out at the beginning of the session, but I wasn’t driving well. I went off twice. I was thinking too much– of getting the car back in one piece, trying to find speed and time– and I went off into the gravel. Our car is wonderful going forwards, but it’s not that easy to manoeuvre, especially when you’re strapped in, and you can’t move your head. Basically, it’s designed to go forwards… and I was going backwards."
Mike Hezemans– nr 3 Carsport Viper : "The splitter broke after the first lap. We tried to fix it, but it was rubbing on the ground after two laps. This meant the car was understeering really badly. We had the same problem at the end of the session yesterday, and we fixed it last night. But it broke again. It was impossible to drive."
Sebastiaan Bleekemolen– nr 4 Carsport Viper : "I was at the front from the beginning of the session, starting on rain tyres and putting intermediates on at the end. Everything worked well. After the final green flag, I came on the radio and asked how much time I had left. They told me one minute 50 seconds, so I knew I had just one lap. Luckily it was a good one. The car was going very well in the wet, we’ve really got a great set-up for all conditions."
Christian Ried– nr 8 Proton Porsche : "I was driving the car, and I was a bit too fast for the situation. The rear just went, and when I braked on the wet track, nothing happened. I hit the barriers quite hard. I’m OK, but the car is very bad. We’ll have to see what the mechanics say." Later the team announced the car was retiring from the race.
Jean-Pierre Jarier– nr 9 ART Viper : "I am very happy to have qualified for the Superpole for the first time. We went over to slick tyres three laps before the end of the session– a result of good management between the pit crew and the driver. The car is working very well, and the rather difficult and changing conditions worked to our favour. We don’t have the power of the Ferrari ; this is a basic Viper, with no development work. This good result really makes up for some of the bad luck we’ve had this season. But we’ve been improving since Zolder, when we managed to really work on the car and get a good set-up. The track was quite dry at the end, it was only damp on the last corner before the start/finish line, and in the chicane. But if you went off the line, you were really on the limit with slick tyres– you had to be a bit of an acrobat out there !"
Fran™ois Lafon– nr 9 ART Viper : " All the talent of a driver like Jean-Pierre Jarier comes out in a situation like that one. He gets up to temperature even faster than the tyres do."
Claude-Yves Gosselin– nr 11 Belmondo Viper - before having their qualifying times removed : "The session went well. We put the right tyres on at the right time. One more lap would have been really better. Anthony Kumpen set the time . We were really worried when the yellow flag came out at the end– we were nowhere before that. The nr 12 car was unlucky with their tyre choices, because they had been competitive for much of the session. But we’re generally pleased; we’ve made a lot of progress since the last race, and we’re a lot closer to the front."
Raffaele Sanguiolo– nr 14 Orlando Porsche : "I always enjoy racing here– when I drive, I’m on holiday ! The car is perfect and we have no technical problems. The team is working very well. But with the old GT2 car, we have really done the maximum we can. I hope for a dry race, as we have a good engine and good set-up for those conditions."
Rickard Rydell - nr 15 Prodrive Ferrari : "It was a good session. There was only really one lap after the green flag at the end, and you had to make sure there was no traffic, and get a good, clean lap in. We had intermediate tyres at the end. I’m quite happy with the car; it’s better than when we started yesterday. It’s also nice to see that the car is competitive here too, not just at the A1 Ring with its long straights. It was also very good with the Dunlop tyres in the wet conditions."
Wim Daems– nr 21 GLPK Viper : "Severich had a small off on intermediate tyres at the end of the session. It had been the right choice, and we could have been in the top eight. But everyone improved while we were in the pits, so we’re down in 25th. I hope the second session will be dry so that we have a chance of getting a good starting position."
Mauro Felisatti– Team manager, nr 24 Racing Box Viper : "We had no luck– our car was the third one to take the chequered flag, and everyone improved after us. But that’s racing !"
Niko Wieth– nr 25 Wieth Ferrari : "We have put the regular engine back in the car, and it works– but it’s not very fast. The mechanics worked all night– they finished at eight o’clock this morning. Every time we have a new problem. This engine has around 100 hp less than the one we had yesterday, but at least we can drive."
Stephane Ortelli– nr 57 Freisinger Porsche : "Second is not bad at all. The car was good, and we put slicks on at the end and it was all very close. The car is going well, and I was out at the right time to get the one fast lap we needed. It’s the second time in a row we’ve made the Superpole, which is very good. My new team-mate Robin Liddell is going very well too."
Christian Pescatori– nr 62 JMB Ferrari : "It’s going well in the wet, but we still have some problems in the dry, with a lot of understeer. The Porsche cars have improved a lot, and we have basically the same car since Brno. But the race is long, and I’m sure the weather will be rain– dry– rain– dry. It’s up to the team to make the difference so that we can get the points we need."
Philip Peter– nr 69 Orlando Porsche : "We saw yesterday that the car was good in the rain, and the Pirelli tyres are especially good in wet and damp conditions. The car has a really good balance. I would say that we don’t have the last step of the engine– we have the three-ring piston version, and the latest version is the two-ring, which gives an advantage. But it if rains, the cars are quite equal. It’s very good to be driving with Marco Werner; he did very well in the rain yesterday. He’s my Porsche Supercup team-mate and I know he’s fast. We really want one or two good results for the rest of the season."
Luca Riccitelli– nr 77 RWS Porsche : "It was unbelievable out there at the end of the session. One lap before I was in seventh place, but the last lap improvement put me in the top 6, which is the main thing. We have a good car for dry conditions, so if it remains like this, I should be really fast.