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Valencia: Qualifying report

After two close qualifying sessions, there will be an all-Saleen front row for the second round of the 2004 season. Walter Lechner Jr, in the nr 4 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7, set the fastest time during the first qualifying session, but Michael...

After two close qualifying sessions, there will be an all-Saleen front row for the second round of the 2004 season. Walter Lechner Jr, in the nr 4 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7, set the fastest time during the first qualifying session, but Michael Bartels, in the nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen, managed to take nearly nine hundredths of a second off his time, to take his first pole position in the Championship. In N-GT, Sascha Maassen took pole in the nr 99 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS, ahead of the nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Porsche, with the GPC Giesse Ferrari 360 in third place.

Weather
After Friday's heavy rain, Saturday dawned dry and bright. It remained warm and sunny all day, with some wind; the track was dry.

First pole for Bartels

Michael Bartels, in the nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen S7-R, will start from pole position for tomorrow's three hour, 500 km race, having set a lap of 1:31.368 round the 4.005 km track. "We saved our last set of new tyres until the end of the session. The car was very good at the end, very well balanced, so we could make a competitive lap time that was good enough for pole position. Anyway, both cars of our team seem to be very strong. The track characteristics fit the Saleen cars really well. Of course, setting the fastest lap time is one thing - a three-hour race distance is quite different. But we are well-prepared and confident for tomorrow."

Sascha Maassen on N-GT pole

The nr 99 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr will take the N-GT pole tomorrow, having set a time of 1:35.529 early in the morning session, which proved unbeatable. "Things were going very well today. We didn't have any problems, the car was fine and the tyres were good as well. I had a clean run on my fast lap at the beginning of the session. So despite not having any experience on the track, it worked out fine."

First Qualifying session : Lamborghini chases the Saleens

Walter Lechner Jr, already a pole setter twice in 2003, confirmed the potential of the nr 4 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7 this morning, claiming a fantastic provisional pole position during the first qualifying session. His lap of 1:31.457 was over a second faster than the second-best time, set by the Vitaphone Saleen S7, also run by Konrad. Third place went to the impressive Lamborghini Murcielago, which set a time of 1:32.537 in the dry conditions, having already proved its speed in the wet yesterday afternoon. The 45-minute session round the compact and twisting Valencia circuit was close and exciting. Twenty minutes into the session, the top nine cars had set times within one second. At that point, the nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello was fastest, with a time of 1:32.576. Shortly afterwards, the Vitaphone Saleen moved into provisional pole, having set a lap of 1:32.470. Eight minutes later, Walter Lechner Jr took advantage of a clear lap to set an excellent time of 1:31.457, which remained the fastest time of the session.

Behind the two Saleens, however, the Lamborghini was fast improving, and climbed from tenth, to fourth and then finally to third, with a best time of 1:32.537.

The nr 2 Ferrari 550 Maranello was fourth, but went hard into the gravel towards the end of session. The nr 27 Creation Autosportif Lister lost its best time, which had placed it in 9th position, after overtaking under yellow flags.

N-GT : best time for Maassen

Sascha Maassen set the best time in the N-GT category early in the first qualifying session, with a lap of 1:35.529 in the nr 99 Porsche 996 GT3-RS entered by Freisinger Motorsport. Second fastest was the nr 50 Freisinger Yukos car, driven by Stephane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard, which had gear-box worries, with Pescatori and De Simone third in their GPC Giesse 360 Modena car, despite stopping at the side of the track late in the session, having run out of fuel.

Second Qualifying Session : Bartels takes pole for Saleen front row Warm and sunny, the second qualifying session nevertheless saw a number of improvements, most notably from the nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen S7. Michael Bartels set a time of 1:31.368 towards the end of the session, improving on Walter Lechner Jr's morning lap of 1:31.457 by just 0.09 seconds. The two Saleen cars had an advantage of almost 8 tenths of a second over the two BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello cars, which both also improved in the afternoon. The nr 7 RML Saleen was fourth fastest in the afternoon, improving to sixth overall on tomorrow's starting grid. The best of the Ferrari 575 M Maranello cars in the session was the nr 17 JMB Racing car of Wendlinger, Lechner and Wolff, which set the fifth time; they will start 10th on tomorrow's grid, on which the best Ferrari 575 car is the nr 13 GPC Giesse car of Naspetti and Hezemans.

The nr 29 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Murcielago, which had set the third time in the morning, failed a ride-height test in the afternoon session, and had its times cancelled. The car will nevertheless start from fifth position on tomorrow's starting grid, alongside the RML Saleen. The nr 28 Graham Nash Motorsport lost times due to failing to comply with the weighing procedures, but will still start from seventh position.

The nr 9 Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper GTS also lost some of its times, due to the ride height, and will start in 14th position; the team's second car, driven by Christophe Bouchut, Val Hillebrand and Arjan van der Zwaan, was 8th fastest in the afternoon, after missing most of the morning session with a broken differential, and will start from 9th tomorrow.

Maassen retains N-GT pole

In N-GT, Maassen and Luhr were once again fastest in the second qualifying session. They were followed by the nr 62 GPC Giesse Ferrari 360, with the nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Porsche third, despite continuing gearbox worries : none of them improved on their morning times. The only N-GT cars to improve in the afternoon were the nr 69 Proton and the nr 57 Vonka Racing Porsches, which will occupy the final row of tomorrow's grid.

-fia-

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