Oschersleben: Qualifying report

WEATHER Bright and sunny, the temperature has risen steadily during the day. SECOND CONSECUTIVE POLE FOR LECHNER Walter Lechner Jr claimed his second consecutive pole position in Oschersleben, with a lap of 1:23.869 at the wheel of the nr 2 ...

WEATHER
Bright and sunny, the temperature has risen steadily during the day.

SECOND CONSECUTIVE POLE FOR LECHNER

Walter Lechner Jr claimed his second consecutive pole position in Oschersleben, with a lap of 1:23.869 at the wheel of the nr 2 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7-R. The young Austrian driver has now been in the top two for the last three races, ever since moving from an N-GT Porsche to the GT class. "We found a good set-up yesterday, and I am very happy with my time - the car was really good today," Lechner Jr said. With two pole positions earlier in the season for Jean-Marc Gounon, this is the fourth pole for the Konrad Motorsport Saleen.

Alongside him on the grid for tomorrow's eighth round of the 2003 FIA GT Championship will be the nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper GTS-R, with Mike Hezemans and Anthony Kumpen hoping to finally finish a race this season. The team's second car, driven by Philippe Alliot and David Hallyday, will start from fourth place, alongside the nr 7 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R of Tommy Erdos and Mike Newton, which took third place towards the end of the first qualifying session. This means the front two rows will both have a Saleen ahead of a Viper. The nr 15 Lister Storm of Piccini and Sterckx was fifth fastest. Both the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello and the nr 14 Lister Storm of Campbell-Walter and Kinch set identical times in the first session, but as the Lister set the time shortly before the Ferrari, the nr 14 will start ahead on the grid, giving an all-Lister Racing third row, ahead of an all-BMS fourth line.

BERTOLINI FASTEST IN N-GT

Andrea Bertolini took pole position in the N-GT category, having set a time of 1:27.319 in the morning session, at the wheel of the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari Modena. "The car is very good and fast; I am very happy as we have done a lot of work with Pirelli with the new compound tyres, and along with the new gearbox, the new Marelli system and the new tyres, we have a very fast car," Bertolini said. The nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena of Davies and Turner was second fastest, with Darren Turner setting a time of 1:28.111. Championship leaders Ortelli and Lieb set the third-best time in their nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS, with a lap of 1:28.140, just 29 thousandths of a second behind second place. The second TMC Ferrari of Mullen and Burt was fourth Anderstorp winners EMKA Racing were fifth-fastest in the category, ahead of the nr 57 MENX Ferrari of Enge and Pergl.

FIRST QUALIFYING SESSION

Lechner on Provisional Pole !

The first 45-minute qualifying session round the 3.667 Oschersleben circuit started off at a frantic pace. Biagi, in the nr 23 Ferrari 550 Maranello, was the first to lead the time sheets, with a lap of 1:24.820. Walter Lechner, in the nr 2 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7-R then improved the provisional pole to 1:24.676, with three cars setting times under the 1:25 barrier. The Force One cars were the next to hit the top, with first Philippe Alliot in the nr 4 Chrysler Viper setting a time of 1:24.632, and then Hezemans in the team's nr 5 Viper knocking three tenths off with a

lap of 1:24.322. But they were all shortly to be eclipsed when Walter Lechner Jr lapped in 1:23.869, eight minutes into the session. This time was nearly half a second faster than last year's fastest qualifying time of 1:24.263, set by Jamie Campbell-Walter in the Lister Storm. Ten minutes before the end of the session, Tommy Erdos in the nr 7 Saleen improved up to third place with a time of 1:24.379. By the end of the session, no-one had been able to come close to Lechner Jr's time, which stood as provisional pole. He was followed by the nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper, the nr 7 Graham Nash Saleen S7-R and the nr 4 Force One Viper. The two Lister Racing Storms were fifth and sixth, with the best-placed Ferrari the nr 23 car of Championship leaders Biagi and Bobbi, 7th, having set the same time as the nr 14 car. The nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello, which was so fast in free practice yesterday, could only manage 3 laps due to a transmission problem; the team's nr 10 car was tenth.

JMB Racing fastest in N-GT

In N-GT, the nr 61 EMKA Porsche was the fastest early on, with a time of 1:28.694. However, by the half-way point, the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena had improved to 1:27.319, followed by the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche, approximately eight tenths behind. The nr 88 TMC Ferrari then moved up to second with a lap of 1:28.111.

SECOND QUALIFYING SESSION

BMS Scuderia Italia top hot second session

The unseasonably hot weather meant that there were very few improvements in the second qualifying session. However, the nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello, which was only 16th overall after the first session due to a broken transmission, immediately knocked a second off its morning time. The car continued to improve, setting the best time of the session with a lap of 1:25.029 and rising to 9th overall. However, after the end of the session, the nr 9 Ferrari was to see all its times from the session cancelled, due to not complying with the airbox restrictions, and therefore dropped back down to 16th position on the grid for tomorrow's race.

The other car to improve - by just four thousandths of a second - was the nr 18 Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper, which had lost some of its morning times due to failing to comply with the weighing procedure. This left the Championship leaders, Thomas Biagi and Matteo Bobbi, as the fastest drivers in the second qualifying session, with a time of 1:26.009, topping the time sheets for the first time this weekend. They were followed by the nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper of Hezemans and Kumpen, who were also second fastest overall. The nr 10 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello of Pescatori and Derichebourg set the third-fastest time, followed by the nr 18 Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper.

TMC leads the N-GT class

The nr 89 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena of Kelvin Burt and Tim Mullen was the fastest N-GT car on the track during the hot second qualifying session. Setting a lap time of 1:28.455, the car set the 13th time overall, ahead of the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche and the nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS.

PORSCHE PRESENTS NEW 911 GT3 RSR

Porsche presented their new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR car today, in the LG Super Racing Weekend paddock in Oschersleben. The car, which is aimed at the 2004 racing season, aims to keep private customer teams competitive in international GT competition, maintaining the success of the predecessor, which has had great success, including in last season's FIA N-GT Championship. This version of the 911 is based on the new road-going 911 GT3 RS, and features a modified front, which improves downforce on the front axle. The 3.6 litre six-cylinder boxer engine delivers 445 hp at 8250 revs, with top revs reached at 8500 with two 30.8 mm air restrictors. It will have a six-speed sequential gearbox.

NOTES AND QUOTES

Walter Lechner Jr - nr 2 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7-R - GT Pole: "We found a good set-up yesterday. I pushed really hard to set this time, so I am very happy. The car was really good today. I have driven many races here in single-seaters, but I have had to change my style and to find the line, because it is not the same with this car, but I am very happy with this time."

Philippe Alliot - nr 4 Force One Festina Racing : "We are very happy, with one car on the front row and one car on row two. Now we have to do the same thing in the race !"

Mike Hezemans - nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper GTS-R - 2nd in GT: "Last year I was frequently in the top three after qualifying, but it has not been the same this year. We haven't even had our first pit stop this year. It was a very good lap; we also have new tyres from Pirelli. I have to thank Thomas Erdos because he gave me a very good tow and it was a very nice lap. I thought he would back off, but he didn't, and that was most probably what gave me such a good time. Philippe Alliot also did a good time in the second car, but he most probably had to do it alone ! If we can get past the first pit stop tomorrow, then I think we can get to the podium."

Marco Zadra - nr 6 Creation Autosportif Lister Storm : "We have been working hard and changing a lot of things. The times are all quite close at the top of GT, and the gaps seem to be getting closer and closer as the season goes on. Here, it is quite difficult to overtake, and very easy to make mistakes, especially when you go off the line. It's going to be quite hard during the race, even to overtake the N-GT cars. I just hope it's not too hot on Sunday. The car is OK when you are moving, as you get some fresh air. But when you stop in the pits, it's like an oven." Bobby Verdon-Roe : "Marco was the fastest Lister driver for most of the second session, running a full tank and old tyres, until Kinch went quicker at the end, which is very encouraging. We have made a step forward, with a new differential. We think our race pace will be close to that of the Lister Racing cars."

Thomas Erdos - nr 7 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R - 3rd in GT : "This is the second time in a row we have made the top three in qualifying, which is good. We are quite competitive, despite not being here before, and Mike (Newton) set some good times too. I ran into traffic in my best lap, so I lost a few tenths. I'm not sure if my tow really helped Mike, he seemed quite a way back to me. But perhaps he can return the favour in Estoril !"

Fabio Babini - nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello : "Philipp only did two laps this morning, and the transmission broke. The cars were both very good yesterday, both on old and new tyres - the Pirelli tyres are very good here. I know the circuit well, I really adore the corners here - and I had a good result last year in the Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper. But the track is very tight, and it is important to be at the front."

David Sterckx - nr 15 Lister Storm : "Things are going well. I drove with a full tank of fuel to prepare for the race tomorrow. We couldn't improve overall in the afternoon due to the heat, but I improved my personal time. This is the first time I've been to this track, just like it was my first visit to Anderstorp. Tomorrow I will try to put in a consistent performance, as I did there. Andrea and I get on very well together; I have done a lot more rally driving than circuits, and so I am basing my style on his."

Paolo Biglieri - nr 16 Wieth Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello : "I tested with the team at Le Mans three weeks ago. So far, we have been having some minor problems, but I know I will really enjoy it when the car is working properly. I would like to do the last two races of the season with the team."

Jean-Marc Gounon - nr 19 Creation Autosportif Lister Storm : "We have made progress, with the new differential, the car is much better balanced. Gradually, we are improving."

Marco Streparava - BMS Scuderia Italia : "We did not improve our times during the second session, but the drivers are quite happy and confident that they will be able to do a good race. We consider that our real advantage over our rivals is that we have two equally fast drivers, and a very professional, competent team for the pit stops, which helps us to make up for our smaller restrictors. I think the remaining three races in the Championship will be amazing, with the cars so close together. If we are leading, it is the result of the good team of drivers and all those working for the team. The car was ready at the start of the season, but we still had a lot of learn, and we have improved significantly."

Marc Lieb - nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS - 3rd in N-GT : "I'm very pleased with the qualifying result, which is better than I was expecting, especially on this track, which favours the Ferrari cars, and with the 50 kg penalty weight we are carrying. We have a really good race set-up. On my fastest lap, I made a mistake which lost me one or two tenths, or we would have been even closer. We have definitely improved since Anderstorp, and I am really looking forward to tomorrow."

Andrea Bertolini - nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena - N-GT Pole : "The car is very good and fast; I am very happy as we have done a lot of work with Pirelli with the new compound tyres, and along with the new gearbox, the new Marelli system and the new tyres, we have a very fast car. I had a throttle problem in Anderstorp. Tomorrow I think it will be a very difficult race, as it will be very hot, and there is not much of a difference between the GT and N-GT cars."

Tomas Enge - nr 57 MENX Ferrari 360 Modena : "We were surprised with the time we set yesterday, but even more surprised this morning that we could not equal it, despite cooler temperatures and new tyres. But our position is still good - sixth place is a good place for us. But the race is going to be difficult, especially overtaking, as there is only one clean line, so you have to be careful not to go off, or you will almost certainly have to come into the pits to clean the car."

Mike Jordan - nr 75 Eurotech Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "It's good to be back - we will be driving for the final three races. Things have been going well, although once again we have never been to this track before, so we have had to learn everything. But it's great to go to new places. Qualifying has gone reasonably well, and I will be pleased if we can get both cars to the end. "

Ian Khan - nr 85 JVG Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS : " Our engine broke yesterday, so we changed it for the spare. But this engine is blowing out oil out, and we don't know where it is coming from. The team is going to have a long night to find what is wrong."

Horst Felbermayr Jr - nr 86 JVG Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "We have had a number of little problems with the car, which had huge understeer yesterday. Today we had a problem with the gearbox fixations, but we hope to improve during the second qualifying session."

Darren Turner - nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena -2nd in N-GT : "We are a lot more competitive than we were at Anderstorp, and we are closer to the JMB Ferrari, so hopefully they will run into problems again and we can aim for the top of the podium once more. With Ferrari cars one and two on the grid, it does seem to be a Ferrari circuit, but the closest Porsche does have the maximum ballast, so that could make the difference."

Toto Wolff - nr 99 RWS Yukos Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "It's nice to be back in the Championship ! However, we are struggling a bit today with a lack of grip. In qualifying, we could not go faster than the time we set in free practice after just four laps. I am currently two seconds slower than I was last year. But the race should be different. We have a good strategy and I know we can fight for a result."

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Tomas Enge , Darren Turner , Philippe Alliot , Matteo Bobbi , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Anthony Kumpen , Mike Hezemans , Paul Belmondo , Marc Lieb , Mike Newton , Kelvin Burt , Thomas Erdos , Fabio Babini , Jean-Marc Gounon , Ian Khan , Andrea Bertolini , Tim Mullen , Thomas Biagi , David Sterckx , Bobby Verdon-Roe , Toto Wolff , David Hallyday , Mike Jordan