FIA GT Championship 18 - 20 September 1998 A1 Ring Austria Round Saturday 19 September 1998 - 2nd Qualifying Practice Session
As everyone predicted - but not everyone hoped - the weather was dry during the second qualifying session, despite a slight drizzle mid-session. The times further improved on the morning times, with the 1998 pole-setting time fractionally below Nannini's '97 time.
Cor Euser, driving the Marcos LM600, and Stphane Ortelli, in the #56 Roock Racing Porsche 911 GT2, set exactly the same time in today's second qualifying session, with laps of 1:31.269. However, as Ortelli set the time first, his car will start from pole in tomorrow's 500 km race.
"It's fantastic to be on pole, but what is really important is that we've resolved our mechanical problems," Ortelli said, after gear-box problems yesterday and an engine failure this morning. "As I had not driven yesterday or this morning, I had no idea of how the car would be, and I had to discover everything. I didn't want to fight for the pole, just to understand the car - I didn't use qualifying tyres." Euser, who narrowly missed out on his fourth consecutive pole, was pleased with his time, considering the problems they have been experiencing this weekend. "We have a new experimental engine, but we will change it tonight to the one we used at Donington - it's too risky. We were late out as we had to change the oil pan. I saw the drizzle, and just got a lap in, but it was not quick enough to beat Stphane." It was a good day for Roock Racing, as the #57 car, driven by Eichmann and Hezemans, was third fastest, with the #58 in 7th. "It looks good for us for tomorrow," Eichmann said. "It's a good car and I can drive a good race." Eichmann won the race here last year, together with Hrtgen and Ortelli on a Roock Porsche 911 GT2.
Unusually, the Chamberlain Viper GTS-R will start tomorrow in front of the 1998 Champions, Viper Team Oreca. Ni Amorim, and his team-mate Manfred Stohl, will be in fifth place, with the #51 Oreca car, driven by Lamy and Beretta, in sixth. Local hero Karl Wendlinger, who was involved in an accident this morning, could not take part in the second session as the damage to his car turned out to be more serious than was at first thought. He will, however, be able to take part tomorrow, starting 11th in the category.
"We received a new suspension, new front and rear anti-roll bars and a new Dunlop tyre," Amorim said. "It's really made a difference, both in the car and in the motivation of the whole team. This is the first time that the Chamberlain car is in front of the factory cars, and it's a very good result for us - especially as it is not a Viper circuit, it's one that will suit the Porsches." Tomorrow will be more difficult, however, as his team-mate, a successful rally driver, is inexperienced in this kind of racing.
Explaining the difference, Oreca sporting director Pierre Dieudonn said : "The extra weight makes a big difference on this kind of circuit. But it is good for Chamberlain, and I am very happy for them. We will try to do a good team job in the race, and get a good result." "We worked on the race set-up," Olivier Beretta added. "The race will be OK. We know where we are."
After Donington, Ricardo Zonta once more showed he was the fastest man in the AMG Mercedes team, with a pole-capturing time of 1:22.166. "The car was very nice, and the lap was very enjoyable," said the young Brazilian, who topped F1-testing times at Magny Cours earlier this week. "There is not much grip, and lots of g-force - it feels good because it's quick." Currently seven points behind Schneider and Webber in the Championship, Zonta continued : "It is very important to win in Austria for us. If we are behind Bernd Schneider, it will be difficult for the last two races. We will push hard tomorrow to win." Schneider was second, after suffering from big aerodynamical problems with the car since yesterday. "It was good in the wet, but jumping a lot in the dry. I am satisfied with second place, it should make tomorrow more interesting."
The Panoz continued to show promise with the third best time, set right at the end of the session. Franck Lagorce's time of 1:23.592 put him ahead of Bouchut's Mercedes CLK-GTR, which had held third place for much of the session. "This is my second race in the FIA GT series with the Panoz, and I am very happy. We were fifth at Suzuka, and it's good to be third here, behind the two Mercedes."
Lagorce is sharing the car once more with fellow Frenchman Christophe Tinseau. "The Panoz is going better and better - it has really evolved since the beginning of the year, and has the pure speed needed for qualifying." He likes driving the car, and enjoys this Championship. "I'd like to continue next year. They are beautiful cars. But I'd prefer longer races - 8 or 12 hours would be good."
The Persson team put in their best qualifying performance since Hockenheim, only narrowly missing the third place. "The session went well, except for the last lap, which was really on the limit," Bouchut said. "But the car is well balanced, and very quick. On this track, I think we have a chance."
Fastest of the Porsche GT1 cars was the semi-factory Zakspeed Racing car, driven by Bartels and Angelelli. Bartel's time of 1:24.042 was fractionally faster than Dalmas and McNish in the #7 Porsche AG car. Angelelli, who shares the car with Bartels, only did four laps in the car. "They said I was as fast as Bartels, but I think tomorrow will be difficult for me. The circuit is quite difficult."
"The accident took away all our chances of doing a good time with qualifying tyres - we couldn't go out again. I haven't driven a single lap in the dry !" Michel Ligonnet, after Kaufmann's collision with the Stadler GT2 Porsche at the start of the second qualifying session.
"We couldn't take part in the second session - a cable was melting and we had to stop the engine right away. We had to sit and watch our fifth place go down to tenth. It's a shame - it would have been nice to have started further up the field," Bernhard Mller, Krauss Race Sports.
"The start will be important tomorrow, as it's a difficult circuit for overtaking. So it was important to be in front..." Christophe Tinseau, DAMS Panoz.
"Wait and see," Olivier Beretta, Viper Team Oreca.