Nurburgring Friday qualifying report

Jamie Davies took provisional pole position for the 1000km at the Nurburgring in his Audi during a rain affected first qualifying session. The Briton set a time of one minute 47.009s, more than a second clear of Japanese Seiji Ara in the Team...

Jamie Davies took provisional pole position for the 1000km at the Nurburgring in his Audi during a rain affected first qualifying session. The Briton set a time of one minute 47.009s, more than a second clear of Japanese Seiji Ara in the Team Goh entry, just before heavy rain swept the circuit in the Eiffel mountains and washed away anyone else’s chance to challenge the time. All will have the chance to improve during Saturday’s morning session, in preparation for the race, which starts at 4pm.

Pierre Kaffer was third fastest in the second Team Veloqx Audi shared with Allan McNish, while Tommy Erdos was a magnificent fourth in the RML Lola, the Brazilian taking three seconds off his morning time in the car he shares with Miguel Ramos and Mike Newton after the team made changes to the set-up of the car.

The session started with a light drizzle of rain, which prevented the drivers from setting their ultimate lap times. “The car can go quicker,” said Davies. “It was a good lap, though I did have traffic. Fortunately I caught the other cars on the exit of the corner and got away with it by just feathering the throttle. The biggest problem was the weather. It was just spitting with rain when I went out, and at every corner there were flags showing that it was slippery but the track was actually good. I could have pushed harder.”

Jean-Marc Gounon was fifth overall, and claimed the LM P2 category pole position in his Courage Competition shared with Sam Hancock and Alexander Frei. The Frenchman is making his debut in the 2004 Le Mans Endurance Series with the Courage, and says that he is hoping to complete the season with the French team. “We had a misfire in the morning, so we sorted that out and then we set the car up in a very short time,” said Gounon. “I lost maybe seven tenths in the Esses so we could do a 1m49s lap, but we are two tenths off the RML car, so I am really pleased with that.”

Paul Belmondo was second fastest in the class, ninth overall after also missing the window of opportunity to set fastest lap. The team is racing with a chassis tub lent to them by Courage as their regular chassis is under repair following a very large accident at Le Mans last month. “We will get our tub back for Silverstone,” promised the Frenchman.

For a time the Team Jota Zytek sat on pole position driven by Sam Hignett, but was passed by the Audis, the RML MG and the Creation Zytek of Nicolas Minassian, who was sixth fastest, his fastest laps disrupted by traffic before the weather set in. “I set a lap and it was already getting wet, so I backed off,” said Hignett. “By the time I realised it was all dry I went for it again, but by the time I got down to the hairpin on my second flying lap, it was really wet. We’ll go again.”

Soheil Ayari was 33rd fastest in the Pescarolo Courage that he shares with Eric Helary, the Frenchman missing the start of the session and was only able to set his time after the heavy rain set in. French legend Henri Pescarolo is looking to make up for the disappointment at Le Mans where he was on target for a podium before a mistake by a driver cost valuable time. “In the wet we could be very competitive and we are quite happy with the set-up of the car,” said Pescarolo. “I wanted to see how the car would be in high-downforce trim after Monza and Le Mans, and I am happy.”

John Nielsen was tenth fastest in the Lister Racing Lister Storm, shared this weekend with Justin Keen. “Qualifying was the luck of the draw,” said the Dane. “This morning we did a 1m50.9 and the car has the potential to do a 1m48.5 tomorrow. I like the car very much. It is a different concept from the Dome. The engine only revs to 6000rpm where the Judd does 11,000, so this does not stress the driver. It is nice to drive and has a lot of potential.”

Uwe Alzen, Michael Bartels and Franz Konrad sit on provisional GTS pole position in their Konrad Racing Saleen S7R, half a second clear of Mike Hezemans and Jean-Denis Deletraz in the Barron Connor Ferrari 575. “We had a lot of luck at the beginning of the session because there was only time for one fast lap before it rained,” said Konrad. “We are still working on the set-up because it is not the same as the FIA, for instance we have a smaller rear wing and we are struggling a little bit. Tomorrow we will be qualifying again.”

Anthony Kumpen, David Hallyday and Bruno Besson were third fastest in class, 16th overall in their Force One Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R.

The new A-Level Engineering Porsche of Eric van de Poele and Wolfgang Kaufmann missed the qualifying session as the car was having its engine changed. “I haven’t driven a Porsche since 1993 at Spa,” said van de Poele. “The car is beautifully prepared and I am looking forward to driving it in the race.”

Sascha Maassen was fastest in the GT category in his Cirtek Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

-lmes-

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Series ELMS