Silverstone, 15-17 May 1998 Saturday 16 May 1998
Weather The incredible heat and sunshine continue at Silverstone, to the surprise of all those who remember last year's FIA GT round, which was red-flagged early due to incredibly heavy rain. There is still a slight breeze, however, and drivers are still hoping for time improvements in the afternoon session.
GT2 : Ortelli on pole Although the Vipers continued their strong pace in the GT2 category, a storming Stéphane Ortelli took the #56 Roock Porsche GT2 out towards the end of the session and set a succession of fast laps, culminating in a 1:49.705 - four tenths faster than the #51 Viper, and enough for pole position. The two Team Oreca Vipers were next fastest, although Pedro Lamy was not able to improve on his morning time. Wendlinger, driving the #52 car with reigning GT2 Champion Justin Bell, improved his morning time but remained in third place. Cor Euser improved on the Marcos' morning time, raising the LM600 to four on the GT2 grid. There were more problems for the Cirtek Ford Saleen Mustang, which stopped on the track after just two laps.
GT1 : Porsche and Panoz For the second year in succession, the Panoz will start from the front row of the grid for the British Empire Trophy, alongside Allan McNish, who claimed pole for the # 7 Porsche with a lap of 1:39.703. There were few improvements until the final 15 minutes, when the GT1 cars had the track to themselves. Alzen, whose Porsche had lost time in the morning session due to gearshift problems, was the first GT1 to improve, taking provisional pole with a lap of 1:39.918. In the last five minutes, however, the times tumbled. McNish, driving the other factory-entered Porsche, set the fastest lap of the weekend so far, while Webber improved for the # 1 Mercedes and Bouchut took the Persson Mercedes from 9th on the grid up to 6th. With two minutes remaining, Zonta went quicker in the #2 Mercedes, putting him on the second row. An excellent last minute lap from David Brabham put him on the front row - a place clearly earned by his efforts, without being aided by the weather - a sudden shower of hailstones - as happened last year.
Porsche Press Conference Porsche AG held a press conference today, at which all the drivers were present. Bob Wollek, replacing an injured Yannick Dalmas, was asked to explain the difference between the '97 and '98 versions of the Porsche 911 GT1. It's difficult to explain the difference between a cow and a horse, he said. Basically, the car is lighter, with better grip as there is more downforce. It's easier to drive, easier on tyres, and has less horsepower. Altogether, it is a faster car, with a stiffer chassis - everything is better. Sauber F1 test driver Jörg Müller was asked about the difference between driving the F1 and GT cars at Silverstone. The F1 car is a cabriolet, the GT has a closed roof, he joked. You get fresh air in the F1 cars, while it gets a bit sticky in the Porsche. More seriously, he continued, The weight is the biggest difference, under braking and accelerating. The team are hoping for a good race tomorrow, where McNish hopes to claim the British Empire Trophy for Scotland.
Mark Webber, Mercedes CLK-GTR Webber had some very good races in British Formula Three at Silverstone last year. Does that give him any advantage ? No, everyone knows Silverstone ! he said. This, however, is the first time he has been charged with qualifying the Mercedes CLK-GTR he shares with Bernd Schneider, so he was very pleased with his fifth place this morning - fastest of the four Mercedes cars. The times should be quite similar this afternoon. I was a little bit surprised by the speed of the Panoz, but the Porsche should be quicker. We are still trying really hard, and we have a good race strategy.
Press Conference Quotes Stéphane Ortelli, Roock Racing : I set the morning time with yesterday's tyres because we had a gearbox problem. Right at the end of the afternoon, I put the new tyres on. I pushed a lot. I like this track, I made my first podium in Endurance racing here, and I'm very proud to be on pole with Roock Racing. It's good for the team, we've made a lot of improvements on the car. Now we've changed the tyres, and I think it's a good choice. I'm happy for Yokohama today that we are able to be on pole. It's good for them, and it's a good step I'm sure.
Pedro Lamy, Viper Team Oreca, on losing pole to the Roock Porsche : We knew that they could be fast. But we set our qualifying time in the first session.
Karl Wendlinger, Viper Team Oreca : We tried to set a time this morning, thinking that the morning time was usually quicker than the afternoon one. We had understeer problems and we couldn't cure it. This afternoon, the timing was wrong - sometimes we had traffic, sometimes little mistakes.
Allan McNish, Porsche AG, on his pole-setting lap : The lap wasn't a good lap, there's no question . It was good until Stowe, and I made a big mistake and very nearly lost the car. I went sideways, but managed to recover it through judgement, there was a bit of luck there. I didn't actually lose too much time, which surprised me. It was a scrabble, rather than a clean cut lap.
David Brabham, DAMS : The fact that we're on the front row is a bonus for us. I thought maybe the second row, that the Porsches were a bit stronger. On my final qualifying lap I went through Copse and the thing just hooked round there just fantastically. I thought this is going to be a good one, this is going to get us up front. And then in the middle of Becketts, I caught a McLaren, just come out of the pits, and I nearly gave up the lap because it spoilt me. But I thought we were running out of time so I tried to complete the lap and it's very good that we're second. If I had not been held up, it could have been good enough for pole.