Eve of The Battle
Three Questions To: Dirk, Andy and Jorg
Three BMW men arrived in Dubai as the only drivers still running for the FIA European Touring Car Championship title: Dirk Muller (BMW Team Deutschland) the current leader, Andy Priaulx (BMW Team Great Britain) who is 12 points behind, and Jorg Muller (BMW Team Deutschland) who is third, with a 17-point gap.
Q: The final shoot-out is on a brand new circuit, on which no one has tested before today; could this affect the title fight?
DM: "Sure, it's new for everybody. It's a completely different situation from all the other races. The outside temperature is incredibly high, so it' s a matter of how the drivers will cope with this. It will be very important to get a good rhythm from the beginning."
AP: "No, because at this level every driver is good everywhere. The circuit does not make the difference anymore; the times of taking advantage from the home circuit are gone."
JM: "I don't think so. The current situation in the points is more important. Dirk is in the best position, and I'm in the worst. The track is not going to change that."
Q: If you had the possibility to change something about the season so far, what would you change?
DM: "My double zero score in Donington. This is all, I had a good season so far, and I hope I can close it as a very good season--"
AP: "The driving standards. Full stop!"
JM: "I should have kicked Dirk and Andy off the track a couple of times!"
Q: How would you split the chances of becoming champion between you and your two rivals?
DM: "Theoretically Jorg has not many chances, but you never know what's going on in the races. Andy has good chances, so I have to concentrate and don't think that I'm already the champion. I need to fight for it and score points despite the 40 extra kilos I'm carrying. For me it's only another race weekend--"
AP: "The odds are in Dirk's favour. I had a very competitive season, winning five races, more than any other driver. And I had a bit of bad luck. If Dirk has a bit of bad luck here, then is possible for me to win the title. I'm here to win it and I'm not going to give up until the chequered flag of the second race."
JM: "I have to be realistic. I don't stand a chance, unless both Dirk and Andy do not score points. I will probably be out of contention after the first race. As for Andy, even if Dirk does not score here, he has to collect 12 points in two races. With the Alfa Romeo and SEAT cars around it is going to be tough."
PRIAULX SETS FASTEST TIME IN FIA TESTING
Because the Dubai Autodrome is a brand-new racetrack, the FIA authorized the competitors of the FIA European Touring Car Championship to run a 30-minute official testing session this afternoon.
With very hot temperatures -- more than 35C -- the 22 drivers had their first taste of the 5.4 km track. They started very cautiously, and then improved their lap times consistently.
Late in the session Andy Priaulx set the fastest lap at 2:12.617, at an average speed of 146.42 kph. Three Alfa Romeo men were placed behind him: Fabrizio Giovanardi (2:13.224), Augusto Farfus (2:13.290) and Gabriele Tarquini (2:13.408).
The best SEAT drivers -- Frank Diefenbacher and Rickard Rydell -- clocked the fifth and sixth fastest lap time in 2:13.585 and 2:13.726; they ranked just ahead of Dirk Muller (2:13.937) and Jorg Muller (2:14.110). Dirk only completed five laps, before stopping at his garage with power-steering problems.
Oregon Team's Michele Bartyan emerged as the fastest of the Independent drivers, setting the 10th fastest time with a lap of 2:14.723.
"It's always difficult going on a new circuit," Priaulx said, "as you don't have parameters for the set-up. We have discussed and it turned out that the set-up we needed was exactly the same one suggested by my engineer. I like the track, it's very technical. You've got corners that need a lot of camber and others with no camber and low grip. It's going to require some serious thoughts. You've got a new circuit, a very long lap, and difficult conditions; there's a lot to learn. There will be a lot of opportunities, for overtaking, everywhere. The circuit is wide enough, and I think there will be a lot of changes in the positions. Also, with the sand, drivers can make some mistakes during the races. And this is going to turn things around as well."