by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite -

48th Macau Grand Prix, November 15th/18th 2001
Final Qualifying:
Weather: Hot, breezy. Sunny and clear.

Bet you can't guess who's out first? Of course you can; it's Andy Priaulx as usual. And he then also sets a fast time as usual. Some drivers were not quite so quick to set about qualifying. De Oliveira did one exploratory lap before diving back to the pits for a number of adjustments before getting down to work. He wasn't the only one. There was a lot of pit lane activity in the early stages, with the likes of Ryo Fukuda and Takuma Sato also coming in for early adjustments. Meanwhile, the first of the improvements began to come through. Derek Hayes moved to 15th overall after a very lacklustre session on Thursday, while Mark Taylor managed to set a time that didn't require a grandfather clock to record it - his only time the day before had been in the 15 minute range before he tripped over Matteo Bobbi and was out for the rest of the day. At least he now had a proper time in the bank so he could start to push. Yuji Ide was another who had not set a time at all on Thursday and he was soon 18th. In between, Tristan Gommendy fought his way to 17th, which meant that car numbers 15, 16 and 17 were now in 15th, 16th and 17th... spooky! Nearer the front, Matsuura was now 7th and Bjorn Wirdheim was on the move too. The young Swede had been fast all weekend and showed no inclination to let the more experienced competitors lead the way - his early morning laps of the circuit in a hire car with a video recorder were paying off. The times were now starting to come down rapidly. Paolo Montin, regarded by most of the other runners as a serious threat, was the first to break the 2 minute 13 second barrier. It was all to play for now.

At the 15-minute mark the top ten was: Montin, Wirdheim, Sato, Cochet, Monteiro, Davidson, Kaneishi, Matsuura, Fukuda, Kaffer.

Enrico Toccacelo was the next to improve hugely and was in a reasonable 14th. However, the main action was still at the front. Wirdheim dug deep to find an extra half a second from somewhere, but was still overtaken for pole at that point by Benoit Treluyer. The Frenchman is Japanese F3 Champion this year but what happened to him at Zandvoort probably still smarts. He was beaten by Sato there (and by everyone else when he failed to get off the line) and he was determined it wasn't going to happen again if he could help it. The trouble was, Sato was still right with him in 2nd place. What was he going to have to do to get rid of the Carlin driver? Priaulx, after his promising start, was now down in 8th, which would disappoint him. Jonathan Cochet, on the other hand, was looking as strong as ever and was now 3rd. Just when it seemed things were settling down, Fukuda woke up and snatched pole with an impressive time of 2 minutes 12 seconds. Priaulx, meanwhile, was progressing again and was now 7th and trying hard for further improvements. At the opposite end, Marchy Lee, the only Chinese driver in the race, was 20th, while Heikki Kovalainen had failed to get more than a couple of hundred metres. After a determined effort by the team to fix an engine and gearbox failure that had struck in the untimed session that morning, the fuel pump promptly failed and he started to slip back down the order. Another driver struggling to find his form was Bruce Jouanny, the French driver just managing to get into the top 20 before the session had to be red flagged. Peter Hackett (Australian F3 Champion no less!) had crashed into the wall and had to be retrieved. That meant another broken Carlin car. They were getting very good at fixing broken Dallaras...

Peter Hackett

With 15 minutes left, the order was Fukuda, Treluyer, Sato, Cochet, Montin, Wirdheim, Priaulx, Monteiro, Davidson, Kaneishi, Matsuura, Toccacelo, Kaffer, De Oliveira, Ide, Hayes, Taylor, Gommendy, Jouanny and Sundberg.

The session finally got underway again after Hackett had been rescued and the pace hotted up no end. Wirdheim now snatched pole, with Cochet just behind him. If Sato was planning on doing this he was leaving it dangerously late and in fact he had slipped down to 6th, not a position he is used to. And there were other people on the move too. Matsuura was now 7th and Montin had regained 4th. Before Wirdheim could draw breath, he had lost out to Treluyer and Sato had been pushed further down by Kaffer who was now 6th. The next change came when Cochet displaced Treluyer. The two of them spent a lot of last year scrapping together and it seemed not much had changed. However, Wirdheim had not given up yet either and took pole from Cochet. With Matsuura now in 4th, Sato had dropped again to 8th. He had a lot of work to do and very little time to do it in. An improvement from Monteiro pushed Sato down yet another place. With Wirdheim in the 2:11s (and having driven the fastest ever lap round the Macau circuit) all attention now focussed on the Carlin car still circulating. And the times for number 6 now began to fall again. Sato climbed steadily to 6th, and then to 3rd on consecutive laps. Others making determined efforts to improve were Monteiro who made a last ditch effort to claim 8th and Andy Priaulx who snatched 6th place at the last minute. All eyes were still on Sato however. Crossing the line just 12 seconds ahead of the chequered flag this was his last chance to claim pole. The lap was clean and it looked entirely likely that he would end the day fastest, until the final corner. Coming out of Fisherman's with one more corner to negotiate he found local driver Michael Ho in a spin in the middle of the track. He managed to avoid the revolving hazard but valuable fractions of seconds had been lost and he crossed the line in 2nd place, less than one tenth of a second off Wirdheim's time to the tremendous relief of his team and his team-mate Davidson who had been finding out just what it's like to have to stand and watch and wait - he didn't seem to like it much.

<pre> Classification - Second Qualifying:

1st - No. 27 - Bjorn Wirdheim, S, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess 2:11.983 2nd - No. 6 - Takuma Sato, J, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen 2:12.062 3rd - No. 25 - Jonathan Cochet, F, Signature Competition, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo 2:12.212 4th - No. 12 - Paulo Montin, I, Tom's, Dallara F301 Toyota Toms 2:12.432 5th - No. 3 - Benoit Treluyer, F, Mugen X Dome Project, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen 2:12.487 6th - No. 30 - Andy Priaulx, GB, Promatecme, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen 2:12.581 7th - No. 28 - Kosuke Matsuura, J, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess 2:12.718 8th - No. 18 - Tiago Monteiro, P, ASM-Elf, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo 2:12.902 9th - No. 8 - Ryo Fukuda, J, Saulnier Racing, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo 2:12.948 10th - No. 10 - Pierre Kaffer, D, Team Kolles Racing, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen 2:13.108 11th - No. 1 - Toshihiro Kaneishi, J, Opel Team BSR, Dallara F300 Opel-Spiess 2:13.686 12th - No. 26 - Yuji Ide, J, Signature Competition, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo 2:13.715 13th - No. 2 - Enrico Toccacelo, I, Opel Team BSR, Dallara F300 Opel-Spiess 2:13.975 14th - No. 15 - Derek Hayes, GB, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen 2:13.989 15th - No. 31 - Bruce Jouanny, F, Promatecme, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen 2:14.484 16th - No. 19 - Joao Paulo de Oliveira, BR, Swiss Racing Team, Dallara F399 Opel-Spiess 2:14.556 17th - No. 21 - Peter Sundberg, S, Three Bond, Dallara F301 Nissan-Tomei 2:14.994 18th - No. 16 - Mark Taylor, GB, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen 2:15.439 19th - No. 17 - Tristan Gommendy, F, ASM-Elf, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo 2:15.485 20th - No. 20 - Haruki Kurosawa, J, Swiss Racing Team, Dallara F399 Opel-Spiess 2:16:041 21st - No. 9 - Marchy Lee, C, Saulnier Racing, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo 2:16:112 22nd - No. 33 - Raffaele Giammaria, I, Team Kolles Racing, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen 2:16.773 23rd - No. 36 - Matteo Bobbi, I, Target Racing, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess 2:17.393 24th - No. 32 - Michael Ho, MAC, Cram Competition, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess 2:17.612 25th - No. 7 - Peter Hackett, AUS, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen 2:18.079 26th - No. 22 - Lei Kit Meng, MAC, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F301 Renault-Sodemo 2:19.504 27th - No. 29 - Jo Merszei, MAC, Cram Competition, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess 2:24.583

No Time Set No. 5 - Anthony Davidson, GB, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen - broken driver No. 23 - Heikki Kovalainen, SF, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F301 Renault-Sodemo - broken fuel pump No. 11 - Sakon Yamamoto, J, Tom's, Dallara F301 Toyota-Toms - broken car