FIA Super Touring Championship Rounds 19 & 20 Qualifying Session Report Weather Windy and very changeable. Scattered showers in the morning dampened the track before free practice, but the sun was shining for the whole qualifying session and the...
FIA Super Touring Championship
Rounds 19 & 20
Qualifying Session Report
Windy and very changeable. Scattered showers in the morning dampened the track before free practice, but the sun was shining for the whole qualifying session and the track was dry.
25 drivers took part in the session. Two last-minute changes saw Portuguese driver Nelson Clemente replace Moreno Soli at the wheel of nr 21 GDL Racing BMW 320i, while Italian Alberto Radaelli took over the nr 8 AGS Motorsport Audi A4 Quattro from Massimo Pigoli, who was forced to withdraw due to backache. Clemente, a 31 year-old from Almeda, is a regular competitor in the National Championship for turbo diesel Touring Cars ; Radaelli, 42, from Monza, started the season in the FIA GT Championship and finished 5th at Zolder in an Art Engineering Porsche. Other newcomers to the Championship are French Touring Car driver Yvan Muller (nr 3 Nordauto Alfa Romeo 156), Jens Edman from Sweden (nr 25 Flash Engineering Volvo S40) and his fellow countryman Tobias Johansson (nr 32 Brovallen Motorsport Audi A4 Quattro).
Nicola Larini topped the first practice in the wet, but it was Gabriele Tarquini who set the morning's fastest time in the second session on a drying track. Tarquini's lap of 1:44.852 was 0.5 seconds faster than Giovanardi's time and 0.7 than Larini's. Felipe Massa's Alfa 156 stopped on the track early in the second session due to an electrical failure.
Yvan Muller claims pole position on his ETCC debut
In a breathtaking qualifying session, Alfa Romeo guest star Yvan Muller celebrated his first appearance in the FIA European Super Touring Championship by claiming pole position only three minutes before the end of the session. The Frenchman clocked a time of 1:43.818 that ousted his Nordauto team-mate Nicola Larini from the first spot of the starting grid. Muller also ended a three-race pole position streak from Honda and Gabriele Tarquini ; the last Alfa Romeo poleman was Fabrizio Giovanardi in Budapest.
For most of today's session the Alfa Romeo drivers were on top : Giovanardi claimed provisional pole position on his very first lap with a time of 1:44.961. The current Championship leader managed to improve his time halfway through the session with a lap of 1:44.420.
Only one minute later, Tarquini claimed the provisional pole position from Giovanardi, improving to 1:44.240. With seven minutes left, Giovanardi was the first to break 1:44 barrier; clocking a time of 1:43.946 to reclaim the provisional pole position.
Giovanardi was then outpaced by Larini's lap of 1:43.941 ; only a mere 5 thousandths of a second divided the two Alfa Romeo drivers. Larini's pole position hopes only lasted a few seconds before being dashed by Muller's perfect lap.
As the session was about to end, Tarquini managed to improve to 1:43.907, good enough for a front row position.
At the end, the first four drivers in the qualifying session (Muller, Tarquini, Larini and Giovanardi) were separated by only 0.128 seconds. Tomorrow, in the last two races of the season, Giovanardi will try to defend his 16-point lead in the Championship, from Tarquini and Larini who are sharing second position in the classification.
The Alfa Romeo and Honda cars dominated qualifying, monopolising the top seven positions on the grid for tomorrow's first race: Nordauto Felipe Massa set the fifth time (0.45 seconds behind the pole), just ahead of JAS Motorsport’s James Thompson and Fabrice Walfisch. Best of the rest was Roberto Colciago in his AGS Motorsport Audi A4 Quattro who beat the Nissan Primera cars of Matthew Neal (who spun off and crashed into the barrier early in the session) and Carl Rosenblad and the Volvo S40 of Jens Edman.
Sandro Sardelli set the 12th time at the wheel of his PRO Motorsport Nissan Primera to qualify best of the Amateurs drivers; his rival in the Trophy title fight Gianluca De Lorenzi will line up 15th on the grid. Sergio Sambataro did not drive at all today, his Racing Box Audi A4 Quattro is suffering from engine problems.
Yvan Muller (FRA)– nr 3 Nordauto Alfa Romeo 156 : "Honestly I did not expect to be on pole at all. I did less than 10 laps in the car last week in Fiorano in the dry and only with used tyres. On the wet it was OK. This morning, in free practice, I was quite slow but again with used tyres. I was not optimistic at all for the qualifying. I only did my best to improve the lap times with each set of tyres." When asked if he was supposed to help the drivers fighting for the Championship, he answered : "It is easier to help them from the front ! Tomorrow, the race will be tough as I have no experience in this car; I don’t know how the tyres will wear. I will do my best and try to keep in front of Gabriele."
Gabriele Tarquini (ITA)– nr 4 JAS Motorsport Honda Accord– 2nd on the grid. "I am a bit disappointed not to be on pole position but with my last set of tyres, I found traffic. Only with my second set of tyres, I had a clear lap but generally, we had more traffic than at the previous races. Pole position is the best place to be but we will see tomorrow. I hope that tomorrow, Yvan Muller will not try a lot of starting tactics. In any case, I will try to be the fastest ! I do not want to think about the title. My aim tomorrow will be to win the race. Maybe that will not be enough but that is my target. The performances of all the Championship-fighting cars are very close in qualifying. In the race, my car has recently been faster than the Alfas but Estoril is a special track. We will see tomorrow… I am optimistic and I am confident with the performance of my car. I felt much more comfortable in Jarama with James Thompson and Fabrice Walfisch behind me but I am hoping for a fair race and I shall concentrate on winning it !"
Nicola Larini (ITA)– nr 2 Nordauto Alfa Romeo 156– 3rd on the grid : "I am happy with my performance on my last set of tyres but it was not good enough for pole position. My aim tomorrow will be to be in front of Gabriele but also in front of everyone else, as I want to win the Championship. I am hoping for rain tomorrow as I like to drive the Alfa in these conditions."
Fabrizio Giovanardi– nr 1 Nordauto Alfa Romeo 156 - 4th on the grid: "When I went below the 1:44. mark, I thought my time was good enough for the pole, but it seemed like the track was getting faster and faster as the session continued. But I can't complain; how could I when I'm just 0.1 seconds from pole ? And after all it could have been much worse, like in Jarama, when I had three Hondas in front of me. I am not worried for tomorrow, because Tarquini and Larini must win at any cost and I can wait and see."