Bobbi Takes Second Consecutive Pole
2003 Champion Matteo Bobbi claimed pole position for Sunday's 11th and final round of the 2004 FIA GT Championship in Zhuhai, with a lap of 1:31.121 round the 4.3 km circuit, set in the morning session. "It has not been so easy this weekend, but we worked hard yesterday and found a good set-up for both qualifying and the race," Bobbi explained. "I think the car will be even better in the race than for qualifying. It will be really hard to beat the Maserati cars, who have four very good drivers, but we will try to do our best. It is very good to be here in China; the race will be hard tomorrow but it will be a good challenge." This is BMS Scuderia Italia's sixth pole position of the season, and Bobbi's third, his second consecutive pole after Dubai. Their Ferrari 550 Maranello will line up on the grid alongside the nr 34 AF Corse Maserati MC 12, after a time of 1:31.312 set by Johnny Herbert. The nr 33 Maserati MC 12 will start from third place, alongside the nr 3 Care Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello, after a lap of 1:31.657 by Christophe Bouchut, who will drive the car this weekend with Lilian Bryner and Enzo Calderari. With the top four cars qualifying within 0.5 of a second, tomorrow's race promises to be close. The third row will be an all-Saleen affair, with Lechner Jr and Margaritis placing the nr 4 Konrad car ahead of the nr 7 RML Saleen of Erdos and Newton.
PESCATORI GIVES GPC ITS SIXTH POLE OF THE SEASON
Christian Pescatori will start from pole position for tomorrow's 500 km race; this is his sixth pole of the season, and his tenth in his GT career, placing him second behind Stephane Ortelli in the all-time statistics. "Today, we tried new Pirelli tyres for qualifying for this circuit, and the car was very good; I hope it will be good in the race tomorrow too. The problem tomorrow will be the traffic and, for my car, the braking," Pescatori said. His lap of 1:36.315, set in the faster morning session, was less than 0.1 second faster than Emmanuel Collard's fastest lap in the nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Porsche, and three tenths faster than the nr 99 car, with the best time set by Sascha Maassen. Fourth on the N-GT grid will be the nr 88 Gruppe M Porsche of Sugden and Lieb, followed by the nr 77 Freisinger Yukos Porsche and the nr 64 GPC Ferrari, driven by newcomers Charles Kwan and Matthew Marsh.
FIRST QUALIFYING SESSION : BMS AND GPC ON PROVISIONAL POLE
The nr 3 Care Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello, Christophe Bouchut at the wheel, led the 45-minute session at the start, with a time of 1:32.757. He was soon removed from provisional pole by the nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen, but regained the lead on the next lap, improving to 1:31.656. However, just a minute later, Matteo Bobbi set a time of 1:31.121 which was not to be beaten. Fifteen minutes into the session, the nr 33 and 34 Maserati MC 12 cars moved into second and fourth places respectively, with the nr 34 taking second on the next lap. The top four places did not change for the remaining 30 minutes of the session. The nr 7 RML Saleen improved to 5th place, with the nr 17 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello taking sixth place from the nr 4 Konrad Saleen ten minutes before the end. "I made a mistake in the last corner during my fastest lap, which lost me around six tenths," Bobbi admitted afterwards. "The car is really fast. I want pole position, but even if the Maserati cars go faster this afternoon, we are confident for tomorrow." Times have been close around this 4.3 km circuit, with the top three within 0.2 of a second. The leading Lamborghini was 11th, 1.4 seconds behind pole, within the goal set by Deletraz yesterday.
In the early stages of the session, the nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Porsche set a time of 1:36.509 for N-GT provisional pole, improving to 1:36.400. In the last third of the session, Christian Pescatori put in a lap of 1:36.315 to claim provisional pole. "The car looks good, and Christian did a very good lap. We worked for the race, but it is still good for qualifying. But in the afternoon we need to think more about the race, as it will be very tough tomorrow against the Ferraris. I think the most important thing is to keep first position at the start, and then see what happens. We just want to win the race tomorrow," his team-mate Jaime Melo explained afterwards. The nr 99 Freisinger Porsche was third with the nr 88 Gruppe M car fourth.
There were a number of spins into the gravel beds - filled with the same clay marbles as in Anderstorp - but luckily without any serious problems.
The nr 8 RML Saleen only completed eight laps due to an engine problem; the car did not race during the second session while the engine was replaced and driver Michael Mallock was given permission to race despite having been unable to qualify.
SECOND QUALIFYING : AF CORSE AND FREISINGER FASTEST
The second qualifying session did not see many changes in the overall grid for tomorrow's 500 km race, with only two cars improving on the times they set in the morning. The most significant of these was the nr 4 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7, with an initial improvement nine minutes into the session, which did not affect their position. However, five minutes later, a time of 1:32.168 saw the yellow Saleen leapfrog the nr 7 RML car to take fifth on tomorrow's grid, as the best of the Saleens. The nr 13 car also improved on its time, but remained 12th on the grid. The nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen spun into the gravel early on and did not rejoin; the car will start in 8th position. There were also problems for the nr 35 Scuderia Veregra Chrysler Viper, which made a slow return to the pits with a tyre in ribbons.
The best time set during the 45 minute session was 1:31.554, by the nr 33 Maserati MC 12, ahead of the nr 4 Konrad Saleen and the nr 11 GPC Ferrari 575 M Maranello of Morbidelli and Babini. In N-GT, the best time was set by the nr 99 Freisinger Porsche, ahead of the nr 50 Porsche and the nr 62 GPC Ferrari. The nr 18 Ferrari, the nr 34 Maserati MC 12 and the nr 88 Porsche all lost their second qualifying times due to failing the ride height, with the nr 19 also losing times due to failing to stop to be weighed.
Although the skies have been overcast in Zhuhai today, the weather remains hot and humid.