Lopez stars in difficult conditions

Jose Maria Lopez adapted well to the changing weather conditions at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium yesterday (Friday) to qualify fourth for the penultimate round of the FIA Formula 3000 International Championship, which takes place at the Ardennes forest track later today.

The Argentine, who drives for the Coloni Motorsport-managed CMS Performance team, set a fastest time of 2m07.710s to edge out countryman Esteban Guerrieri.

Lopez's CMS team-mate Mathias Lauda was an impressive ninth fastest although Patrick Friesacher, in the lead Coloni car and the winner of the last round of the championship at Hungaroring earlier this month, could only set the 10th fastest time after rain showers affected his quickest laps.

Chanoch Nissany was 16th fastest in the second Coloni entry as he continued his acclimatisation to the FIA F3000 series.

"The weather was changing every five minutes and it was a question of luck to be on the track when it was dry," said team principal Paolo Coloni. "Jose Maria was very quick and his qualifying position is a demonstration of how much he has learnt during the season. I am hoping he can get a podium finish in the race.

"Patrick didn't have a good chance to do a good job but I am quite satisfied the team will have a good set up if it rains in the race. He will have to do the race of his life to repeat his Hungary win but he has the potential to get a good result.

"I was very pleased with Mathias' performance and he was a bit unlucky not to have qualified higher up the grid. Chanoch continued his learning programme, which is not easy at this very difficult track. It is encouraging for him he is not on the back row of the grid."