Temperatures have been relatively low in Monza today. The sun was shining in the morning, but it had clouded over by the time the afternoon session started.
Kumpen claims his first pole in Monza
Anthony Kumpen claimed his first pole position of his FIA GT career today, in the final round of the 2003 Championship. He set a time of 1:43.559 in the first qualifying session, three tenths faster than his nearest challenger, Gollin in the nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello.
This is the second pole in a row for the nr 5 Force One Festina Chrysler Viper GTS-R, after Hezemans took pole in Estoril. "I've had a few provisional poles last year, and one this year, but this is my first pole and it feels good. This might even be the last pole for a Viper. We have improved at each race, and although we have dropped out each time, we have been first when we did so. We will see what happens tomorrow--"
Walter Lechner Jr set the third-best time in the nr 2 Konrad Saleen, and will start alongside the nr 21 Care Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello. The leading Lister, the nr 15 Storm of Piccini, Sterckx and Lancieri will start from fifth, with the nr 7 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen of Erdos and Newton sixth.
Third pole in a row for Andrea Bertolini
JMB Racing driver Andrea Bertolini claimed pole position for tomorrow's 500 km race in Monza, the third pole in a row for the Italian driver, in a last-minute dash round the circuit. Until the final three minutes of the session, it had looked as if the nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche would be on pole, as it had led the times for much of the morning session, and no-one appeared to be going faster in the afternoon. But shortly before the chequered flag fell, Bertolini set a time of 1:49.969, being the only N-GT driver to go under the 1:50 barrier and take pole for the final race of the season. "It is very special to take pole position at Monza, in Italy," Bertolini explained afterwards. "Once again, the N-GT class has been very close."
Emmanuel Collard, at the wheel of the nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche, was second, with the Championship leaders, the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche of Ortelli and Lieb, who set the time, third. The nr 85 JVG Racing Porsche of Ian Khan, Mark Mayall and Michel Neugarten was an excellent fourth, with Jamie Davies and Darren Turner fifth, recovering after spending the morning in the gravel.
First Qualifying Session :
The nr 5 Force One Festina Chrysler Viper GTS-R, driven by Mike Hezemans, Anthony Kumpen and Philippe Alliot, was fastest throughout the first qualifying session, with Kumpen setting a time of 1:43.559 early into the forty-five minutes, which no-one was able to equal. The Viper was followed almost throughout by the nr 22 BMS Scuderia Ferrari 550 Maranello, which gradually closed the gap on the Viper, Fabrizio Gollin being 0.375 seconds behind at the end of the session. Third place went to the nr 2 Konrad Saleen S7-R, nearly eight tenths behind the leader.
The N-GT session saw an extremely close battle between the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS, the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena and the nr 61 EMKA Racing.
However, it was the nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche of Tim Sugden and Emmanuel Collard that set the pace early on, with a time of 1:51.110 ten minutes into the session. Shortly after, the nr 50 Porsche of Ortelli and Lieb took the provisional pole, improving to 1:50.894. The next fast lap from the nr 61 took it to 1:50.917, 23 thousandths of a second slower than the nr 50, before a further improvement in the battle between the Porsches gave EMKA the provisional pole with a time of 1:50.250, on which no-one could improve. The nr 50 was then knocked down to third place by the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena of Bertolini and De Simone, which took second with a time of 1:50.368. The top three cars set times within three tenths of a second of each other. Fourth place went to the nr 85 JVG Racing Porsche, with the nr 51 Freisinger Porsche fifth.
Only 32 cars out of the grid of 40 actually set a qualifying time. The nr 71 Mastercar Viper lost its times due to failing to stop for scrutineering, while the nr 9 had accelerator problems. The nr 89 TMC Ferrari spun out and damaged its tyres, and the nr 19 went out but did not set a time, nor did the nr 58 Autopalace, which spun out into the gravel. The nr 38 Alda Porsche 911 GT2 had engine problems, as did the nr 70 Yellow Racing Ferrari.
Second Qualifying Session
The track appeared to be slower in the afternoon, and initially the only cars to improve in the top half of the field were those that had problems in the morning. The nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello of Babini and Peter, which had failed to set a time in the morning after an accelerator problem, set a time of 1:46.100, placing it tenth and just behind the team's nr 10 car. The nr 37 Chrysler Viper also improved, with a time of 1:48.529 putting them 15th on the provisional grid, while the nr 38 Alda Porsche recovered after engine problems.
However, in N-GT, there were a number of improvements - most notably right at the end of the session, when the pole position changed hands, after an excellent lap for Andrea Bertolini. The nr 88 TMC Ferrari 360 Modena, which had spent most of the morning session in the gravel, set at time of 1:51.407 to place it fifth in N-GT, while the nr 57 MENX car improved by nearly a second to be fifth. The nr 71 Mastercar Ferrari 360 Modena, which had lost its morning times after failing to stop for scrutineering, improved to 26th with a time of 1:51.980. The nr 89, which had spun off in the morning, set a time of 1:51.980 in the afternoon, placing it 8th in N-GT.
A number of cars had problems; the nr 7 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R went into the gravel at the second chicane. The nr 16 Wieth Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello stopped at the exit of turn 6. The nr 99 Yukos Racing Porsche stopped at turn 11, while the nr 57 MENX Ferrari went into the gravel at turn 11.
In the session, the nr 7 Saleen S7-R set the best time, with a lap of 1:45.370, followed by the nr 10 Ferrari 575 M Maranello, with Matteo Bobbi setting the third best time in the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello. In the N-GT class, the nr 52 JMB Racing was fastest, ahead of the nr 50 Freisinger Porsche, with the nr 61 EMKA Racing third and the nr 88 TMC Ferrari fourth. 38 cars set a time, with only the Yellow Racing Ferrari and Reiter Engineering Lamborghini not on the track.
Reiter Engineering opts to withdraw from Monza race
The Murciélago R-GT concluded its Monza debut after the morning's qualifying session. The car took part in the two free practice sessions and the morning session, providing development team Reiter Engineering and drivers Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen with the opportunity to further test the car on the fast straights. "The sessions have given us an excellent opportunity to put the car through its paces," said Lamborghini's Marketing Manager Manfred Fitzgerald. "We have had the opportunity to demonstrate the reliability as well as to improve on its agility, but the nature of Monza has shown that our focus must now be placed on gaining top end speed. The lack of speed in practice was a result of an engine problem that is difficult to rectify trackside, and although we changed the engine overnight on Friday, to continue further would simply cause unnecessary engine damage. In this respect it is right that we conclude our weekend at this point, although it is disappointing that we cannot compete tomorrow."
NOTES AND QUOTES
Anthony Kumpen - nr 5 Force One Chrysler Viper - GT pole : "It feels very good to be on pole for the first time. Last year I had a few provisional poles and this year the team had one, but this my first real one. I think this might be the last one for a Viper, as I don't think that there will be so many Vipers next season. We had some problems with the car at the beginning of the season because we were working on another project as well and so we weren't as well prepared as we should have been but we have improved with every race and the past four races have been very strong. Unfortunately we have dropped out each time, while leading the race, but we have never finished one this year. I hope that doesn't happen again tomorrow."
Fabrizio Gollin - nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello - 2nd, GT : "I know this track very well because it is an Italian track, like Pergusa. I am lucky because in qualifying I was able to slipstream someone and was able to improve my time, but the Viper's time was impossible for me to beat. As for tomorrow, our strategy is the same as Estoril. I will push very hard in the first stint. We could have a good result if the Viper has bad luck again, like in the last nine races !
Walter Lechner Jr - nr 2 Konrad Saleen S7-R - 3rd, GT : "I am quite happy with my qualifying. I had a good lap, which was almost a 100% lap but we are still missing seven tenths and we have to keep on working where we lose time. I am happy to be in the top three in qualifying for the fifth time in my fifth race in GT. I have to say thank you to Frank Konrad for having given me the opportunity to drive the Saleen. We are hoping for a good race tomorrow and to maybe finish on the podium. I would like to finish on the podium in the last race of the season."
Andrea Piccini - nr 15 Lister Storm - 5th, GT : " I think it's going well. I knew we would not be the quickest, but the car is well set-up and nice to drive. I did quite a good lap, and it was close to the third time, which is fine. We are three in the car for this race, so I will only do the first hour, David Sterckx will do the second and Gabriele Lancieri the third. Gabriele did OK today. I like Monza, although I have only driven here once more, as I have never really raced in Italian championships. Tomorrow, it is going to be hard to overtake, but our tyres are very good and we might make up some time. It also depends on the weather^Å"
Matteo Bobbi - nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello - 7th, GT : " The first session was not so good, as Thomas found traffic on his good laps, and losing some tenths of a second makes a big difference because everything is so close. In the second session, I drove, and set the 3rd best time this afternoon, so I'm happy. We will start from 7th, which is not super, but we can do a good job."
Henrik Roos - nr 11 Roos-Optima Chrysler Viper - 14th, GT : "The car is OK, but we do not have the top speed for a circuit like this, which is all straights; otherwise, it is all going fine. We have reached our goal for the season, which was to be in the points at the end of the races, and apart from the races where we failed to finish, we have achieved that. This Championship has some of the best teams and drivers, and it is silly to think that we could be in the top three in our first season. I think we will have one day's holiday, then we will be starting work again. Over the season, I have done over 40,000 km driving to the races and back. Between them, the two cars and trucks have done 150,000 km."
Andrea Bertolini - nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena - pole, N-GT: "This is a very nice result; it is very special to qualifying on pole here in Italy, in Monza. The car and tyres are working perfectly. We were very happy to have won the last race, and I hope that tomorrow's race will also be good for us, but every race in N-GT is very close."
Emmanuel Collard - nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS - 2nd, N-GT : "Unfortunately we lost pole in the last three minutes but I think that we have a good car for the race. We have nothing to lose as we cannot win the championship but we will push hard to win the race."
Marc Lieb - nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS - 3rd N-GT : "We will definitely have a big fight tomorrow, and we need to be very careful, but I am optimistic. The team has put in a big effort for this race, we have improved a lot and are back to the standard that we had at Brno. We definitely have a good car for the race - it promises to be a tough race tomorrow."
Andrea Montermini - nr 71 Mastercar Ferrari 360 Modena : "We had a problem with the clutch in the morning, and then my team-mate failed to stop for scrutineering, so we lost our times. This afternoon I just did two laps, then I left the car to my team-mates so that they could qualify. But we did the best we could."
Jarek Janis - nr 57 MENX Ferrari 360 Modena : "It didn't go too badly in the morning, although I didn't manage to get a free lap, as I was a bit unlucky in the traffic. We saved a set of tyres for the second session. I had a bit of a problem adjusting from Formula 3000 - I was here quite recently - as I forgot and used the braking point from the formula car. I went right through the chicanes and just couldn't stop.." Jarek improved on his morning time by almost a second in the afternoon.
Mike Jordan - nr 74 Eurotech Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "It's not going too bad - the car is going better than me. I hit traffic in my first run, and made some mistakes. In the afternoon, we had brakes to bed in, and I wanted to give Rob more time in the car. Rob has previously driven in the British GT, in TVR cars. Mark cannot be here as his wife is ill in hospital; we had both been looking forward to this race, but he cannot leave, and it was great that Rob said he would love to step in. I really want to get a solid finish to the season, and Rob had done a really good job so far, he seems to have clicked with the car. My aim is still to get another good top six finish, and to finish the season on a high."
Rod Benoist - team manager, Team Maranello Concessionaires : "The nr 88 car, with Darren at the wheel, went into the gravel after hitting oil at one of the corners. The nr 89 spun off on the corner before, damaging the tyres, and so we decided to save the tyres for the second session. There is no damage done, we just lost a session. We're happy with the set-up, and we made some more changes overnight, so we are still happy." The team's cars improved to 5th and 8th in N-GT in the afternoon session.