Philipp Eng and the Mucke-Motorsport team will take the start for this afternoon's Formula BMW World Final from pole position, after the Austrian took a victory in the fifth heat race this morning, and Daniel Morad was unable to do better than third position in the sixth heat.
The air temperature for the 9 AM CET start of the fifth heat was not much over 10C, with the track substantially colder yet, causing a lack of grip for everyone, including Eng. Still, he pulled away easily at the start, as second-place starter Carlos Huertas fell backwards again -- Huertas was down to 11th after the first lap, though he would eventually recover to take seventh place.
"It was quite hard to get the tires up to temperature because the track was really cold," Eng explained. "We tried to warm them up like we did in the Super Pole. My start was better but still not perfect. For sure better than yesterday (against Morad) and I pulled away immediately. After that, everything went smoothly."
Indeed, Eng had an 8.9-second margin at the end over Adrien Tambay, who had leapfrogged Huertas and Marco Wittman at the start. It was a solid drive by Tambay in the Eurointernational car, but with two DNFs in earlier heats, the young Frenchman will have to start the final from 21st place.
Henry Arundel held off Esteban Guterriez and Wittman to take third, six tenths ahead of charging Guterriez and another second faster than Wittman. Sebastian Saavedra was sixth ahed of his fellow Colombian, Huertes.
With the results of the final heats Huertas, Saavedra, Guterriez and Arundel will fill the fourth and fifth rows of the grid for the final, starting from seventh through tenth positions, respectively. Wittman slipped down in the heat race standings into fifth place, and will take the start from the third-row position.
But, really, the grid had not yet been set at this point, as the sixth and final heat race was yet to come, with Morad, Jens Klingmann and Kral. Morad needed just a second place to secure the pole, but Klingmann and Kral were not about to just gift-wrap it for him.
The start was 45 minutes after the first one, but the track had not yet warmed up significantly. Klingmann launched into the first corner with plenty of air behind him, and then Morad and Kral in tight formation. Around first turn and around the second, and then Kral made his move, slipping to the outside in the left-hander, and before Morad knew it, the you Czech had taken second place.
"It was really a bad start, because I was spinning a lot of wheels," Kral recounted. "The track was very cold. It was a bad start, but I overtook Morad very nicely in the second corner on the outside on the brakes."
It was, in fact, the same corner where Kral and Klingmann had touched wheels on the first lap in the first heat race, with the latter spinning off and into a DNF. Morad was not about to risk that, not with the front-row starting position on the line.
"It was a good move for (Kral)," Morad admitted. "He was eally aggressive on the start, and he came across the front of me in turn 2 to so I let him go. There was no sense taking the nose off my car and getting a DNF."
While Klingmann ran away with the race -- he would eventually win by a 3.5-second margin -- the battle between Kral and Morad was edge-of-the-seat stuff. The black Mucke-Motorsport and white-and-blue Eurointernational cars would circulate nose to tail, with the Canadian taking a look here and there. But there was really little chance of a pass without excessive risk.
"He couldn't overtake me because of the (turbulence) behind my car," Kral explained. He was a little bit slower in the chicane, but again got closer on the main straight. He was behind me, and there you've got big dirty air so you can't turn. He lost maybe one or two tenths behind me in the corners every lap."
And here caution was the smart strategy for the Canadian. A DNF would have put him back on maybe fifth row of the grid.
"I was being very cautious to not get into an incident," Morad explained. "Everyone's worked so hard this weekend that I don't want to throw that away for one heat. I didn't get enough heat into the rear tires at the start, so for the first lap I was struggling, and the gap got pretty big. The whole race, I really had nothing for Kral. He would not get quite as good an exit onto the straight, but then once he shifted into fourth or fifth he would pull away until I caught him back up with the tow. The team is going to look at this, and maybe do some tweaking on the gear ratios maybe for the final."
Kral's second-place finish gave him a third place on the starting grid for the final, next to Jonathan Legris. Legris has been a model of consistency in the heat races, moving from seventh and eighth starting positions to take a fourth-place finish in each of the three heats. A fourth-place grid position in the final will give him an opportunity to attack the front-runners -- Eng, Morad and Kral.
Kevin Mirocha took fifth in the heat, and will start the final from sixth place. Pedro Bianchini had his best heat race of the weekend, and finished sixth. However, with his finishes in the other two heats, he will start from 13th.
The World Final, the culmination of everyone's efforts for the past three days, will take the start at 2:50 PM CET.