FIA GT Championship 18 - 20 September 1998 A1 Ring Austria Round Saturday 19 September 1998 - 1st Qualifying Practice Session
The track was very damp at the start of the first qualifying session, although the sun broke through the clouds half way through the session. The racing line gradually dried, and times improved throughout the 60 minute session. Good weather is expected for the afternoon and tomorrow's race.
The fastest time of the session was set by Christophe Bouchut in the #11 Persson Mercedes CLK-GTR, with a lap of 1:28.498. However, his best time was set after the end of the GT1's allotted time on the circuit, and was cancelled by the Stewards, relegating him to tenth. Bouchut was also involved in an incident with the Davidoff McLaren on the lap before, which earned them both an official reprimand. "I think we were both responsible," Bouchut said afterwards. "The car wasn't damaged. It doesn't really make a difference as the afternoon will surely be faster. But at least we've been the talk of the paddock !" Geoff Lees, who was driving the McLaren at the time, had a similar story. "I never saw him coming - it was a bit 50/50. When Bscher went off earlier, it put mud over the mirrors and I couldn't see. But it wasn't a very good overtaking position." Maylnder, who shares the Persson Mercedes with Bouchut, was relatively happy. "The car is working very well, it's very good in the rain, and I'm happy."
With the Persson time being discounted, the two privately entered Zakspeed Porsche 911 GT1 cars were fastest, with Bartels setting a time of 1:28.869 - the first time he has been on provisional pole since the first round at Oschersleben, which also took place in damp conditions. Hahne and Scheld were second, in the #5 Zakspeed car. "It's a good result for Michael and me. The tyres are working well, and we're happy with our set-up for second qualifying and the race," Andreas Scheld said afterwards. "But we don't know what has made the difference here. The tyres have been a big step forward, and the circuit is nice for me. But the rain is good ! The team is hoping for rain this afternoon - this is a dream result for us."
With the track getting steadily drier, timing became vitally important, and those cars which were out at the very end of the GT1's allotted time set the fastest times. This left the AMG Mercedes cars in an unaccustomed third and fifth places. "We were too late with the slicks, and ran out of time," Schneider said. "But the afternoon will be dry and that will change everything."
Marcos fastest GT2 once more After their oil pressure problems yesterday, which considerably reduced their running time, the Marcos LM600 driven by Euser, Becker and Vann once more put the pressure on the rest of the GT2 field, setting a lap of 1:31.846 at the very end of the session. "We still have an oil pick-up problem, and need to change the sump," Euser said. "But the track was not completely dry, and there's more to come. I think we can go another two seconds faster."
As well as leading the GT1 times, the Porsche cars set some of the best times in the GT2 category, with Franz Konrad's #66 Porsche continuing their good results with the second best time. Roock Racing's Eichmann and Hezemans were fourth, with the Krauss Race Sports Porsche in fifth. "I am very happy," Bernhard Mller said. "It was getting drier and drier - we were lucky. Michael put slicks on fifteen minutes before the end and took three laps to get the temperature up. It's especially good to see some Roock Porsche cars behind us - a great feeling - I'll really enjoy my lunch today !" There were problems for Ortelli and Hrtgen in the #56 Roock Racing Porsche, with an engine problem. "I only did two laps," Ortelli said. "They will try and change the engine before this afternoon. But at least the gear-box is fine now..." Currently the Proton Porsche 911 GT2 is outside the minimal qualifications, with a clutch problem meaning they could only do four laps. The mechanics are changing the gear-box - for the fourth time this weekend.
The Oreca Viper cars are provisionally in third and sixth places, after a difficult qualifying session for the normally dominant team. Wendlinger finished the session stuck in the gravel, after an incident with the #96 Porsche GT2, driven by the Felbermayrs. "I don't know what happened," the Austrian said. "I passed Felbermayr on the outside, and he turned in and crashed into me. I spun off, and the car caught fire slightly. There is some damage to the right hand rear - it was quite a hard crash." The car should be repaired for the afternoon session. "It should be better in the afternoon - every lap was getting quicker in the morning, and it should be dry later."
Hugh Chamberlain's Viper has a new driver this weekend, with Austrian rally-driver Manfred Stohl alongside regular Ni Amorin. Things have not gone totally to plan for the British team this weekend. "Yesterday morning the car went in the gravel, and in the afternoon there was a problem with the electrics - in spite of that we were fourth. This morning, Stohl went into the gravel again, and we lost a lot of time. We were ninth on cold tyres." Chamberlain said. Stohl, who normally drives a Mitsubishi, said "It is not easy to drive a car like this - I'm still learning. The big difference is two-wheel drive. And the power is quite high. I still have a lot to learn, and it's getting better. I'm enjoying it, but the weather is not making it easy."
"We hope for permanent rain from now on," Bernhard Mller, Krauss Race Sports