12th Marlboro Masters, Zandvoort, Holland - August 10th/11th 2002
Qualifying - 1st Session - Odd Numbers:
Weather, cloudy, warm.
Bruce Jouanny (Promatecme International) was out first, quite clearly trying to avoid the problems he inflicted on himself here last year when he was left with an awful lot of work to do after the first session, and was probably lucky to get in the race. James Courtney (Carlin Motorsport) was also keen to join in as quickly as possible, the Australian trying to convince everyone that he was fully fit again after his F1 testing crash that caused him to miss the last two races of the British Formula Three series. Mark Mayall (Alan Docking Racing) was also very close to the front of the queue to begin his session. At the end of the first flying lap, Jouanny set a benchmark in the 1 minute 36 second range, but that was only the starting point. Courtney promptly took two seconds off that, with Ryan Briscoe (Prema Powerteam) slotting in just behind him. No one was going to suggest that Courtney was at all off the pace if he could help it.
Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Motorsport) seems to enjoy the really big occasions, having won the support race at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone last month, and he was soon snapping at Courtney's heels, as was Katsuyuki Hiranaka (Swiss Racing Team). Another to show early pace was Ross Zwolsman (Team Kolles). Mark Taylor (Manor Motorsport) was also beginning to show as he shot up to an early 4th place, only to have Milos Pavlovic (Target Racing) take it off him. Just for good measure Hiranaka then took it over - 4th was beginning to look like a very popular slot. An unexpected development for some came when Olivier Pla (ASM) began to feature near the top of the list, moving up to third place. When the Dallara of Bernhard Auinger (Opel Team BSR) also edged into the 1 minute 36 second band it was clearly only a matter of time before one of the drivers in that group took the times down a little further.
To everyone's surprise, Vitantonio Liuzzi (also a BSR driver) was the first to break through into the 1.35s, taking a provisional pole only to have Courtney take it right back. Kovalainen improved to go 2nd and Pavlovic slotted in in 4th, the Yugoslav who is currently leading the revitalised Italian F3 series showing very strongly here. Things were still changing by the second however, and so it was that Pla again claimed 4th, while Auinger made a tremendous effort to displace Courtney from the top of the table. At the other extreme, and a very long way off the pace, just before he spun into the gravel was Benjamin Poron (Griffiths). He managed to extricate himself but he was clearly not enjoying himself at all as he struggled to get to grips with the intricacies of this demanding track.
Local hero Robert Doornbos (Team Ghinzani) was next to improve on the pole position time, while Liuzzi slotted in behind him. The times were beginning to tumble now, though with a third of the session completed there was obviously more to come from many of the drivers. Bruno Besson (Serge Saulnier), who had been languishing near the back of the order, found his Kumho tyres beginning to come on song and was able to set 6th fastest time, while Courtney again moved to the head of the queue. Shinya Hosokawa (Formula Dream Team Carlin) was showing better than expected at this point and was 10th.
At the 10-minute mark the order was Courtney, Doornbos, Liuzzi, Auinger, Pavlovic, Besson, Kovalainen, Pla, Hiranaka, Hosokawa, Briscoe, Zwolsman, Rob Austin (driving for JB Motorsport instead of his usual team, Menu Motorsport), Marc Benz (Passoli Racing), Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport), Taylor, Jouanny, Mathieu Zangarelli (Signature Elf), Poron, Yuji Ide (Arta Signature Elf) and Philip Cloostermans (Azeta Racing).
Antinucci was still looking to improve and eventually worked his way into 5th place, with Hosokawa two places behind him. Someone who really should have been doing better was Zangarelli; he was beginning to move up the order, but he was still a long way off the pace that you would have expected of him. Taylor had begun to fall away and was now 11th. Progressing in the right direction was Pla, who slotted into 6th. Courtney was looking very committed as he attacked the corners, the after-burner effect that the Carlin cars specialise in nearly barbecuing the eyebrows of any driver unlucky enough to slot in behind him on the track. Although many of the competitors were now diving into the pits to change tyres, there were still a number of changes in the order, Jouanny taking 3rd, while Ide managed to squeeze an improvement to haul himself up to 13th. While Zangarelli improved to claim 8th, Taylor also went faster, but he was still only 12th, which is really not what John Booth expects from his drivers. Kovalainen was discovering the joys of tyres that don't appear to go off during the course of a session and was now 7th, while Briscoe grabbed pole from Courtney, determined to be the fastest Australian out there. Taylor seemed to wake up to go 3rd, while Zangarelli was at last showing the sort of progress that was expected of him and was 5th. Taylor continued to reduce his times and grabbed pole position only to lose it almost immediately to Rob Austin of all the unlikely people. He didn't keep it for long either as Kovalainen decided he would like to be fastest. Benz, meanwhile, was making steady progress in the lower reaches of the field to move up to 14th. Zwolsman, another local hero, was now in 9th place.
With 10 minutes of the session left, the order was Kovalainen, Austin, Taylor, Briscoe, Courtney, Pavlovic, Liuzzi, Doornbos, Zangarelli, Jouanny, Besson, Zwolsman, Benz and Mayall. Austin wasn't finished yet, though he looked wild through some of the trickier sections of the circuit. Jouanny wasn't about to quit either, and was in the top three as the last minutes ticked away and the session moved to a close. The trouble was Briscoe was still busy trying to prove that he was the fastest Australian and bettered Jouanny's time in an attempt to get some distance between himself and Courtney. Liuzzi was soon challenging as well and was clinging to that much-debated 4th place. Besson still seemed to be floundering in 12th, while Auinger had clambered back up to 7th, pushing Courtney down to 8th.
A final round of changes began in the closing minutes of the session, with Pla still showing a remarkable turn of speed and taking 4th place, as a springboard to greater things. Pavlovic managed to improve as far as 6th this time round, but was bounced back down a place when Courtney, who had dropped right back to 11th, managed to claw his way back up the order to pole, despite skittering through the gravel trap at the Marlboro corner. Despite his efforts, pole was promptly taken off him by Liuzzi. Liuzzi was pushed back down by Besson who seemed to have decided that if he was going to get a good result he had better get a move on and quickly. Doornbos was another with his eye on first place, and he too held it for a short while before Kovalainen moved into that position. It was all looking fairly well settled until Pla went to provisional pole on his final lap after the flag dropped, which was not a result that many people would have predicted beforehand.
Qualifying - 2nd Session - Odd Numbers:
As the session started the first spots of rain began to fall, and from the pit lane you could see rows of umbrellas sprouting along the dunes as the spectators took cover. Scant minutes later they were all being closed again, and the track started to dry out. The clouds were still hovering overhead though, and it looked likely that it would rain again before the day was over. This was obviously going to be a difficult session.
What it meant was that despite a number of drivers trying incredibly hard, for the first ten minutes at least they weren't even close to their morning session times, The only two to get anywhere near were Rob Austin and Bernhard Auinger, both of them lapping in the high 1.34s. In addition, there was a lot of attention focused on Philip Cloostermans, who desperately needed to set a time, having been unable to do so in the morning session.
Inevitably, perhaps, Auinger was finally able to improve on his time from the morning and was beginning to look as if he might even be able to move up the grid by a substantial amount. When he did he moved from 12th to 5th, again showing the form he demonstrated earlier in the year at Pau. Elsewhere, Ryan Briscoe managed to throw himself off the track in his efforts to better his speed, although he was able to get going again. The trouble was that enough improvements came from elsewhere in the field to ensure that he actually lost two places in the overall order.
Marc Benz was another to manage an improvement, although it made no difference to his position on the time sheets. It did at least show that it was possible. Richard Antinucci, who had been a long way off the pace in the morning, dug deep to find an extra second of pace from somewhere and move himself up from 20th to 10th and therefore back into the race. Mark Taylor was another to improve his position leaping from 11th to 4th, so whatever Manor Motorsport had tried between sessions, this time it worked, although Taylor might have been faster if he hadn't been using so much of the track. He seemed to be taking the scenic route. Katsuyuki Hiranaka was another big improver, clawing his way up to 7th, an improvement of 6 places from 13th. Yuji Ide's was probably the most impressive improvement though, as he leap-frogged his way up from a non-qualifying position in 19th to go 9th. The final improvement came from Benz, who was still on a charge and was able to haul himself 8th having been 15th. Milos Pavlovic looked as if he might also improve, as he was edging ever closer to his morning time. However, all chance of further improvements evaporated, when Mark Mayall went off into the gravel and caused a rash of yellow flags, which slowed everyone down. Cloostermans, who had set a time, but was not fast enough to make it into the race, went off as well. As if that was not enough, Vitantonio Liuzzi had a last lap trip through the gravel, getting going again but just missing Mayall in the process and almost certainly giving him quite a scare.