Paul Ricard: Qualifying report

The fifth round of the 2006 FIA GT Championship is a special one : not only is the Paul Ricard HTTT opening its circuit to a international race meeting for the first time for eight years, but it is also the first new circuit to be visited by the...

The fifth round of the 2006 FIA GT Championship is a special one : not only is the Paul Ricard HTTT opening its circuit to a international race meeting for the first time for eight years, but it is also the first new circuit to be visited by the Championship this year, after rounds one to four were held at tracks which have all welcomed the series on many occasions. 30 cars will line up on the grid for Sunday's 500 km race.

Corvette and Maserati, Corvette and Aston Martin -- a fine line-up for the front two rows of the grid for tomorrow's FIA GT Championship fifth round. The sun shone on the twenty-minute qualifying session, which resulted in the fifth different pole man in GT1 for this season : Jos Menten of the Netherlands, for PSI Experience, with the Corvette C6R. In GT2, Scuderia Ecosse continued their 100% qualifying record, with Andrew Kirkaldy claiming pole in the nr 62 Ferrari 430 GT2, ahead of his team-mate Tim Mullen, with the nr 58 AF Corse Ferrari third. Pole in G3 went to Riverside, with Christopher Campbell and the Corvette Z06, completing an excellent day for the American make.

MENTEN CLAIMS FIRST FIA GT POLE

Dutch driver Jos Menten claimed pole position for PSI Experience and its Corvette C6R at the Paul Ricard HTTT today, and will start from the front for tomorrow's fifth round of the FIA GT Championship. This is only the team's second race in the Championship, and Menten was delighted with his first pole, setting a time of 1:52.841 around the 5.791 km circuit. "It is nice to be here," he said,"I'm really pleased to be on pole position for the first time in this Championship, especially as it is the first time for us with the Michelin tyres. I like this track, with the fast corners and long straight, it's a really nice place. We had some help from Corvette USA to make the adjustment, and all went fine."

He will start alongside Thomas Biagi in the nr 2 Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC 12, the Italian having completed his first qualifying session since Monza 2003 ! Third fastest was the the GLPK Carsport Corvette - proving how well-suited the American cars are to this track, as the top three were only separated by 0.39 seconds. The Race Alliance Aston Martin DBR9 was fourth - its best qualifying position to date.

Fifth place went to Andrea Bertolini in the nr 1 Vitaphone Maserati, the Spa victor, despite carrying the maximum 100kg and the 25 kg bureau weight. But Bertolini was very pleased with the performance -- "We cannot hope to win," he said, "But the car is very consistent, and I know this circuit very well -- much of the development work for the Maserati took place here."

Sixth and seventh went to the two Aston Martin Racing BMS cars, with the nr 23 ahead of the nr 24. "It's difficult," Christian Pescatori said, "The circuit is new to the team and to all the drivers except Fabio Babini, so there is a lot to learn. "

Eighth went to the nr 11 Balfe Saleen, recovering from an oil leak in the free practice, which lost it much of the practice time, while the nr 19 Red Racing Lister was 11th overall.

There were problems for a number of cars, including the nr 5 Phoenix Racing, which suffered from a gearbox sensor problem this morning, and which qualified 13th overall. The nr 9 Zakspeed Saleen had an engine problem, and will start from the back of the grid.

FIVE OUT OF FIVE FOR SCUDERIA ECOSSE

In GT2, Scuderia Ecosse continue to dominate, with their fifth consecutive pole - and the fourth this season for Andrew Kirkaldy in the nr 62 Ferrari 430 GT2. "I did not expect that pole positionm" Kirkaldy said afterwards. "I have never been here before, so it is quite a surprise." Tim Mullen, in the team's nr 63 car, was second, with Jaime Melo placing the nr 58 AF Corse car third, despite carrying 42.5 kg penalty weight after their second-place finish at Spa, as well as 28 kg for having two well-known drivers.

Tim Sugden and Iradj Alexander-David were fourth in the JMB Racing Ferrari, ahead of the nr 81 RSV Motorsport Ferrari of Sundberg and Romero, with the nr 59 AF Corse car sixth. Emmanuel Collard was seventh and the leading Porsche driver in the nr 75 Ebimotors car, ahead of the nr 52 Renauer Motorsport Porsche of Kaufmann and Moro and the nr 66 Felbermayr Porsche of Ried and Felbermayr.

CAMPBELL CLAIMS G3 POLE FOR RIVERSIDE

Pole in the G3 category went to Riverside, with the nr 124 Corvette Z06 GT3, and a lap of 2:04.088 set by Christopher Campbell. This is the first time these cars, regular competitors in the FIA GT3 Championship, are facing a three-hour race. "We are happy to be here," Campbell said. "It is always nice to have a pole position, in whatever class, especially for the team. We had many problems since the beginning of the season in the FIA GT3 European Championship, but today all went well." Second and third went to the two JMB Racing Ferrari 430 GT3 Challenge cars, with the nr 123 ahead of the nr 122.

The sole G2 car, the Belgian Racing Gillet Vertigo, did not set a qualifying time due to a problem with the gearbox selector, so will start from the back of the grid.

-credit: fiagt.com

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Christian Pescatori , Emmanuel Collard , Jaime Melo , Tim Sugden , Andrea Bertolini , Iradj Alexander-David , Tim Mullen , Thomas Biagi , Andrew Kirkaldy , Jos Menten , Christopher Campbell
Teams Aston Martin Racing , AF Corse , Team Zakspeed