Saturday dawned overcast, and although there was a possibility of rain later, the track was dry when the first qualifying session started. Some drops of rain fell during the session, but the track remained mostly dry.
First Qualifying Session
The 45-minute qualifying session saw the first completely dry running of the weekend, which gave everyone problems in trying to determine a dry set-up for the cars after Friday’s wet free practice sessions. The session was further disturbed by full-course yellows, while the nr 24 Racing Box Chrysler Viper was removed from a gravel trap, and by some spots of rain mid-session. The times improved at the end of the allotted 45 minutes, but none of the GT teams could improve on Bouchut’s lap of 1:31.729, set early in the session.
Larbre Competition Chéreau takes provisional GT pole
The nr 7 Larbre Competition Chéreau Chrysler Viper GTS-R took the provisional pole at the start of the session, and Bouchut’s lap time of 1:31.729 stood until the end. The Viper was followed by the two Lister Storms, with the nr 1 car second ahead of the nr 2 Storm. The nr 11 and nr 12 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Vipers took the fourth and fifth places, with the Prodrive Ferrari taking the final place in the Superpole. Neither Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper cars qualified for the Superpole, Hezemans’ car having had a reoccurrence of their splitter problems from the Nürburgring. The nr 10 Paul Belmondo Competition car also failed to qualify in the top six, an oil leak having slowed it down, while Jean-Pierre Jarier, at the wheel of the Team ART Viper, was suffering from food poisoning and only did 7 laps.
Provisional N-GT pole for RWS Motorsport
Luca Riccitelli, the current N-GT Championship leader, put the nr 77 RWS Motorsport on provisional pole in the first qualifying session, despite the car stopping at the end of the session with a broken engine. "Better now than in the race," he said. The nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche was second fastest, ahead of Tim Sugden in the EMKA Racing the N-GT class. Wolfgang Kaufmann, who had set the best time in the category early on, was fourth, in the only Spanish entry, the Escuderia Bengala Porsche 996 GT3-R. The JMB Ferrari 360 Modena was fifth, putting the team in the Superpole for the first time since the Hungaroring, with the nr 50 Larbre Competition Chéreau car of Dumez, Goueslard and Chéreau taking the final Superpole place in sixth. With the Larbre car only 1.2 seconds slower than Riccitelli’s best time, the class was extremely close.
Jamie Campbell-Walter (GBR)– nr 1 Lister Storm: "It wasn’t a great session, but I’m happy with second place. It’s my first time here. We had no dry set-up and no time to make any big changes during the session. So generally I’m quite happy. On my fastest lap, I had to overtake two slower cars, so I’m sure I could have gone as fast as Bouchut. This circuit is quite tricky– there are a number of blind corners, and the wet and dry lines are really quite different."
Mike Hezemans (NED)– nr 3 Carsport Viper : "We had the same problem as at the Nürburgring– the splitter was on the floor. The car is vibrating all the time, and although we tried to fix it back in place, it kept falling back down. I couldn’t even get up to sixth gear on the straight, as the car was bouncing so much I couldn’t see the braking points. But even so I don’t think I could have equalled Bouchut’s time. With a normal splitter, I could have done 1:32. The new splitter is a completely different shape, and it gives us more downforce, which is much better for qualifying. We thought we had fixed the problem, but it broke again. So we’ll go back to the old one. It’s our own mistake. As for the second car, it didn’t qualify for the Superpole either– they appear to have lost a bit of speed, I don’t quite know why."
Christophe Bouchut (FRA)– nr 7 Larbre Viper : "We’re pleased– after poor results in the last two rounds, we have shown that we can still be competitive with a standard Viper. On this circuit, with its mix of fast and slow corners, added to the traffic, the role of the driver is much more important, and I’m quite proud of my time today. I’m not particularly worried about the Superpole, as I know I can be fast over one lap, but we have to be more realistic for the race. All in all, the weekend isn’t looking too bad."
Kurt Mollekens (BEL)– nr 18 PSI Porsche : "We had technical problems with the rear suspension during the session, so we spent most of the time in the pits. Still, it means we have a new set of tyres for the start. The car is completely new, we have no support from Porsche, so we are pleased that we are progressing and hope to improve further over the winter. Next year, we hope we’ll be competitive with the Vipers. We always knew that this year would be a learning year, and it’s good to see some progress. The car is getting better and better, and the reliability has been good so far. To finish in the top ten here would be a really positive result for the whole team."
Paul Belmondo (FRA)– nr 10 Belmondo Viper : "The session wasn’t too bad, and we’re very happy to have two of the cars in the Superpole. Concerning our car, we had an oil leak onto the back tyre, which meant we’re one or two places lower than we should have been, but no more than that. The rain is good for us, and we’re OK in dry conditions, but we really lose time on a drying track."
Emmanuel Clérico (FRA)– nr 11 Belmondo Viper : "I’m really glad to be in the Superpole, and I’ll try to repeat my Brno exploit and get pole– but it won’t be easy !"
Vincent Vosse (BEL)– nr 12 Belmondo Viper : "It’s going better, and it’s really great to have both cars in the Superpole. We had a few small problems, mainly due to not having had any dry running."
Horst Felbermayr Jr (AUT)– nr 30 Proton Porsche : "It’s not fine at all, as we didn’t find the right set-up for the car. It’s our first time at this circuit, and the first time we’ve driven the blue Porsche 911 GT2 for a year. It was being repaired after a big crash in the six hours of Vallelunga last year, and there are a lot of small things still to do. But the worst problem is the set-up. So we’re a long way behind, and we hope to improve a bit in the second qualifying session."
Laurent Cazenave (FRA)– nr 53 Art Engineering Viper : "Seventh place is a bit annoying, as we’re just outside the Superpole… but the car is well set-up. Andrea Bertolini’s main problem was in finding a clear lap, which he didn’t manage to do. But the team is going well, and we’re driving well together, so we’re looking forward to the race. Babini and Moccia are very pleased with the second car. Fabio could have got pole, but just when we thought we could go faster, the‘ Wet Practice’ sign came up, and we presumed it must be raining heavily on the rest of the circuit. But they are very pleased to be in the top 6."
Cyrille Sauvage (FRA)– nr 57 Freisinger Porsche : "We are going to change the engine– it seems to be almost dead. I hope it will be ready for the second qualifying session. With yesterday’s rain it was quite difficult to get the car running well in the dry, so it wasn’t easy for Robin, who did this morning’s session. We’re still far from Riccitelli’s provisional pole time, but we’re improving, which is positive for us."
Joel Camathias (SUI)– nr 69 Orlando Porsche : "We are having fuel pressure problems, which gave us a misfire. I also had an accident, when my team-mate in the nr 14 Porsche 911 GT2 spun at the chicane and came back across the track and hit me. Luckily it didn’t do too much damage so we can try to improve in the second qualifying session."
Christian Pescatori (ITA) - nr 62 JMB Ferrari. The team reports that the car is going much better today, and that Christian drove the whole session. They completed 23 laps, and were very happy with the car’s behaviour, and were especially pleased to be in the Superpole after missing the past two rounds. The car also has a very good set-up for the race.
Wolfgang Kaufmann (GER)– nr 72 Bengali Porsche : "As I promised, I got into the Superpole. The team, the mechanics and everyone have tried to do their best with a car which is not up to the latest specifications from Porsche. But it’s going well, and I’m very happy to be back in the Championship and in the Superpole. I’m especially pleased for Paco, as his is the only Spanish team racing in the FIA GT this weekend, so it’s perfect for him. I hope to do as good a job in the race. But it’ll be hard work !"
Antonio Garcia (ESP)– nr 76 RWS Porsche : "It’s not going so well. With no chance to drive the car in the dry yesterday, I had to spend today thinking about how to drive the Porsche quickly in the dry. I find it quite difficult to swap back after doing three F3000 races. Although it is not hard to drive, it’s very hard to try and be as fast as Luca Riccitelli. To know the track is one thing, but if you don’t know how to drive the car it’s something else."
Luca Riccitelli (ITA)– nr 77 RWS Porsche : "It was good– not an easy session because we had very bad grip, so it was difficult to find the right set-up. It will be very difficult to choose the tyres for the race– after a few laps, the tyres go down, and we have had no real experience of long runs in the dry. Still, it’s the same for everybody. We had a problem at the end of the session when our engine broke, while Dieter was driving. We’re putting the spare engine in, and I hope it will be as competitive as the other one. The Ferrari is also in the top six– nothing is over yet, I’m sure. They will be fast in the race, and they use their tyres less than us. Still, we’ll be starting in a good place."