WEATHER: Partly cloudy and warm, with a threat of rain and a dry track.
The ETCC Speaks English in Donington Park
Andy Priaulx Takes the Championship Lead
The British drivers dominated their home rounds of the FIA European Touring Car Championship in Donington Park.
Alfa Romeo guest star James Thompson won the first race, pulling away from pole position and leaving his new team-mates Gabriele Tarquini, Fabrizio Giovanardi and Augusto Farfus, in a close fight with Jörg Müller for the second place. This fight was won by the German driver, who managed to keep the three Alfas behind him until the end.
The second race was very similar, but this time it was Andy Priaulx's turn to pull away, while Tarquini and Thompson had to shoulder their way to the podium, despite strong opposition from Dirk Müller. As for the other Müller and Giovanardi, they were involved in a first-corner crash with SEAT's Jordi Gené.
Two other BMW drivers shone today: Kurt Mollekens and Alessandro Zanardi. The Belgian finished both races in the points, starting from pole position in Race 2, and helping his RBM team-mate Priaulx's escape. As for Zanardi, for the first time he fought for the positions close to the podium; he finished seventh in the second race, but he could have easily been fifth. On a day which saw Alfa Romeo get back on the winning pace, and BMW defend its leadership in both the Drivers' and the Manufacturers' championships, SEAT had very bad luck. In the first race Rickard Rydell lost a well-deserved sixth place a few metres from the chequered flag, due to fuel-feed problems. He recovered in the second race, but all that SEAT had from the weekend was Gené's seventh place in Race 1.
In the Independents Trophy, Oregon Team's Salvatore Tavano and Carly Motors' Tom Coronel took one win and one second place each, after two exciting races.
Today's results enabled Priaulx to move from second to first in the Drivers' Championship. The BMW Team Great Britain's man is chased by the Müllers; Dirk and Jörg are 4 and 7 points behind him. But Tarquini is still within striking distance, with a 15-point gap.
RACE 1 REPORT
J. Müller jumps three Alfa Romeos at the start
Bartyan was demoted to the last spot of the grid, due to an engine change. Zwaart's BMW stalled at the beginning of the warm-up lap, with a broken differential. At the start Thompson sprinted from the pole, while J. Müller squeezed among the three other Alfas, taking second position. At Redgate Giovanardi and Tarquini clashed, but managed to stay on the track. Magnussen had a good start, and finished the first lap in 14th position, while Tavano was leading the Independents' field.
Lap 1: 1. Thompson, 2. J. Müller, 3. Tarquini, 4. Giovanardi, 5. Farfus, 6. D. Müller, 7. García, 8. Rydell
Tavano and Rangoni fight for the Independents' lead
On lap 3, Tarquini and Giovanardi were closely chasing J. Müller. Rydell overtook García for seventh, while Priaulx and Genè were fighting door-to-door for ninth position. Mollekens stole 11th place from Tavano. On lap 4, Rydell moved another step up to sixth, demoting D. Müller to seventh. Immediately afterwards, the German lost another position to García. At the end of the lap, Tarquini and Giovanardi managed together to dive inside J. Müller's BMW at Goddard, moving to second and third. On lap 5, D. Müller slipped down from eighth to 11th. Tavano and Rangoni fought for the lead in the Independents Trophy.
Lap 5: 1. Thompson, 2. Tarquini, 3. Giovanardi, 4. J. Müller, 5. Farfus, 6. Rydell, 7. García, 8. Gené
J. Müller, Tarquini and Giovanardi swap positions
On lap 6, Giovanardi overtook Tarquini for second at Goddard, but J. Müller was still on their tails. On lap 7, Giovanardi missed the braking point at Coppice, drove wide and let Tarquini and J. Müller through. On lap 8, J. Müller got back in second, overtaking Tarquini. García had brakes problems and slipped down from seventh to ninth. On lap 9, Priaulx overtook Gené for seventh.
Lap 9: 1. Thompson, 2. J. Müller, 3. Tarquini, 4. Giovanardi, 5. Farfus, 6. Rydell, 7. Priaulx, 8. Gené
Thompson wins again for Alfa Romeo
On lap 10, Harrison spun and retired. On lap 11, Mollekens overtook García for ninth; Zanardi overtook Rangoni for 13th; the latter was attacked by Coronel for second position in the Independents Trophy. On lap 12. D. Müller overtook García for tenth. On the 13th and last lap, Rydell lost his sixth place due to a fuel-feeding problem.
Thompson claimed his second ETCC win for Alfa Romeo, after Race 1 in Monza last year. J. Müller saved his second place, crossing the line inches ahead of Tarquini, Giovanardi and Farfus. Priaulx inherited a valuable sixth place, with Gené and Mollekens obtaining the remaining points. Tavano won the Independents race from Coronel and Rangoni.
RACE 2 REPORT
Gené, J. Müller and Giovanardi clash at Redgate
Molleken was on pole for the reverse grid, while Rydell and Zwart were pushed to the back, having asked for neutralisation of the parc fermé. At the start, Priaulx and Mollekens took the lead. A three-car clash at Redgate eliminated Gené (he was on the outside and went off into the gravel) and J. Müller (caught in the middle, suffered a broken suspension). The third man involved, Giovanardi (on the inside) rejoined after pitting for a tyre change. On lap 1, Farfus and Tarquini overtook Mollekens, moving to second and third.
Lap 1: 1. Priaulx, 2. Farfus, 3. Tarquini, 4. Mollekens, 5. Thompson, 6. D. Müller, 7. García, 8. Tavano
Diefenbacher's and Farfus's engines die
On lap 2, Tarquini moved up to second, passing Farfus, and Zanardi overtook Tavano for eighth. Thompson was chasing Mollekens and managed to overtake him for fourth on lap 3. Rangoni retired with a broken gearbox. Ruokonen pitted to fix brake problems, while Diefenbacher retired due to an engine failure. On lap 4, Tarquini and Farfus closed on in Priaulx; D. Müller overtook Mollekens for fourth; Zwart went off the track. On lap 5, Magnussen retired with brakes problems. On lap 6, Farfus also retired with a blown engine.
Lap 6: 1. Priaulx, 2. Tarquini, 3. Thompson, 4. D. Müller, 5. Mollekens, 6. García, 7. Zanardi, 8. Tavano
Coronel steals the Independents lead from Tavano
On lap 7, Coronel passed Tavano and took the lead in the Independents Trophy. On lap 9, D. Müller was on Thompson's tail; García overtook Mollekens for fifth, Rydell overtook Tavano for ninth. On lap 10, Rydell overtook Coronel for eighth, and Bartyan overtook Rosenblad for 12th.
Lap 10: 1. Priaulx, 2. Tarquini, 3. Thompson, 4. D. Müller, 5. García, 6. Mollekens, 7. Zanardi, 8. Rydell
Zanardi wins two points despite brake problems
Priaulx managed to keep Tarquini at a distance, while Thompson left D. Müller behind. On lap 11, Coronel re-took eighth position overtaking Rydell. Priaulx scored his fourth win of the season, becoming the new leader of the Champiosnhip. Tarquini and Thompson completed the podium, while D. Müller, García and Mollekens were classified fourth, fifth and sixth. Despite brake problems, Zanardi claimed a seventh position; Coronel conquered the last point, and won the Independents race from Tavano and Balzan. Watt finished 13th, not a bad position on his first appearance in the Championship.