Oschersleben: Saturday qualifying report

The Vitaphone Maserati team claimed their first front row of the season for their home race at Oschersleben. Michael Bartels claimed pole in the nr 9 Maserati MC12, closely followed by Fabio Babini in the nr 10 Maserati. Third went to Mike...

The Vitaphone Maserati team claimed their first front row of the season for their home race at Oschersleben. Michael Bartels claimed pole in the nr 9 Maserati MC12, closely followed by Fabio Babini in the nr 10 Maserati. Third went to Mike Hezemans in the nr 6 GLPK Corvette C5-R, while fourth for the nr 2 GPC Ferrari 575 Maranello made it three different types of car in the top four places. In GT2, it was Tim Sugden's turn to secure pole for GruppeM in the nr 88 Porsche, ahead of Mike Rockenfeller in the sister nr 66 car. Third went to Luigi Moccia in the nr 74 Ebimotors Porsche 996 GT3 RSR. The results are pending the results of fuel analysis of cars 10, 9 and 88.

WEATHER
The first session saw blue skies and sunshine, although with a breeze blowing and temperatures in the low 20sC. The sun continued to shine for the second session, lifting temperatures to around 26ºC.

BARTELS CLAIMS POLE AS VITAPHONE LOCK OUT FRONT ROW

At his home race, Michael Bartels claimed pole position for the second race in succession. He lapped the Oschersleben circuit in 1:22.991 in the nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati MC 12 he shares with Timo Scheider, but they were pushed hard ; the sister Maserati, the nr 10 car of Fabio Babini and Thomas Biagi, was less than a tenth of a second slower to give the first all-Vitaphone front row of the season. "Both qualifying sessions were very positive, they were like a dream," said Michael. "We've continued here as we finished at Spa, despite the penalty weight."

The grid was closely fought, with less than a second covering the top six cars ; Mike Hezemans, who claimed third in the nr 6 GLPK Corvette C5-R, felt that if he had put in a perfect lap with the car set up right, he could have been on pole; "But it's not a perfect world," he lamented. Current Championship leaders Andrea Bertolini and Karl Wendlinger had more to worry them, the nr 15 JMB Maserati MC12 down in eighth. "We lost our best lap on the second set of tyres when the red flag came out," explained Wendlinger. "But even without that, we couldn't get near the pace of the Vitaphone cars; for some reason, our car is just too slow this weekend."

SUGDEN TAKES GT2 POLE AS GRUPPE M CLOSE ON TEAMS' TITLE

British team GruppeM continued its near-perfect domination of the GT2 category when Tim Sugden claimed pole position in the nr 88 Porsche, making the most of carrying less weight than the sister car. "We had no problems here, and we wanted to be quick," Tim said. "We've had so much bad luck in the last few races, but it's always good when you're on pole." Fabio Babini had to settle for second place in the nr 88 car, carrying 75kg ballast and finishing 0.250s slower. The GruppeM team look almost certain to claim the Teams' Championship on Sunday.

Third went to the nr 74 Ebimotors Porsche of Emanuele Busnelli and Luigi Moccia, over two seconds behind both GruppeM cars. The sole G2 entry, the nr 101 Balfe Mosler MT900R of Shaun Balfe and Jamie Derbyshire, had an untroubled qualifying, ending with a time of 1:28.541.

FIRST QUALIFYING SESSION : BARTELS AND SUGDEN CLAIM PROVISIONAL POLE

Michael Bartels left it late to claim provisional pole position for Sunday's 500km race in the first qualifying session at Oschersleben. With only minutes of the session left he put in a lap of 1:22.991 in the nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati MC12 he shares with Timo Scheider to go less than a tenth clear of the sister nr 10 car of Fabio Babini and Thomas Biagi. Close behind them was the nr 6 GLPK Corvette C5-R of Mike Hezemans, Anthony Kumpen and Bert Longin, which was consistently fast throughout the session.

Over the first fifteen minutes, the nr 2 GPC Ferrari 575 Maranello of Deletraz and Piccini led the way, apart from a brief period when the GLPK car went quicker; then the nr 9 Vitaphone put in a lap over half a second faster than the previous best. Five minutes later Hezemans went less than a hundredth quicker to reclaim top spot, but was demoted to second after four minutes when the nr 10 Maserati went fractionally quicker. That was the way things remained -- until Bartels put in his late flyer to beat them both.

Some competitors encountered problems during the session, the most significant of which befell Jaime Melo, when the nr 3 GPC Ferrari 575 Maranello he shares with Jean-Philippe Belloc shed its left front wheel and rolled to a stop. That brought out the red flag to allow the car to be recovered, as it had stopped in a dangerous area ; the session was suspended for 14 minutes.

In turn, that affected other cars. The nr 15 JMB Maserati MC12 of championship leaders Wendlinger and Bertolini had just got its second set of tyres working well when the session was stopped, leaving them down in eighth on a 1:24.277. The nr 17 Russian Age Ferrari 550 Maranello of Bouchut, Fomenko and Vasiliev had a torrid time, battling understeer and enduring three spins through the session ; the result was a best time of 1:24.095, putting the car in seventh place on tomorrow's grid. The nr 11 Larbre Ferrari 550 Maranello of Pedro Lamy and Gabriele Gardel was also suffering from understeer, ending in ninth position on a 1:24.362.

The running in GT2 was, as usual, made by the GruppeM Porsche squad, with the nr 88 pair of Emmanuel Collard and Tim Sugden claiming provisional pole with Sugden's lap of 1:26.952. That put them exactly a quarter of a second clear of championship leaders Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller in the sister nr 66 car; from only seven minutes into the session, the two GruppeM cars swapped fastest times, although neither improved after the first 20 minutes. The early running had been made by the nr 69 Proton Porsche of Christian and Gerold Ried, the team still having a theoretical chance to claim the Teams' title ; they ended the session fifth fastest.

Third was the nr 74 Ebimotors Porsche of Emanuele Busnelli and Luigi Moccia, repaired after a small accident in Friday's free practice. Running in G2, the nr 101 Balfe Motorsport Mosler MT900R was classified behind the two GruppeM cars.

SECOND QUALIFYING SESSION : VITAPHONE REMAIN FASTEST; GRUPPE M STILL LEAD GT2

With temperatures rising and most teams having used their qualifying tyres, there were almost no improvements in the second session, and no changes in qualifying positions. Three cars managed to go quicker than the morning; the nr 3 GPC Ferrari still had a set of tyres left after their problem in the first session, while the nr 13 Reiter Lamborghini found some time on used tyres, having struggled on fresh rubber in the morning. In GT2 the nr 86 GPC Ferrari 360 Modena of Terrier and Carugati improved as both drivers continued to learn the circuit. The best time overall in the session was set by the nr 10 Vitaphone Maserati MC 12, with the Babini/Biagi car having saved a set of tyres from the morning session to lap in 1:23.376. The sister nr 9 Maserati of Bartels/Scheider was second, with the nr 3 GPC Ferrari third.

GruppeM maintained their 1-2 position in GT2, with the nr 88 Porsche of Collard/Sugden ahead of the sister nr 66 Porsche of Lieb/Rockenfeller.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Karl Wendlinger , Emmanuel Collard , Pedro Lamy , Timo Scheider , Michael Bartels , Jaime Melo , Jean-Philippe Belloc , Anthony Kumpen , Mike Hezemans , Luigi Moccia , Marc Lieb , Gerold Ried , Shaun Balfe , Jamie Derbyshire , Tim Sugden , Fabio Babini , Andrea Bertolini , Mike Rockenfeller , Thomas Biagi , Gabriele Gardel , Bert Longin , Emanuele Busnelli