ETCC: Pergusa: Practice, qualifying notes

FREE PRACTICE 1: COLCIAGO OUTPACES THE FIELD With a very fast lap, right at the beginning of the session, Roberto Colciago repeated his 2002 Pergusa result. Last year, on his first appearance as an Alfa Romeo driver in the FIA ETCC, the Italian...

FREE PRACTICE 1: COLCIAGO OUTPACES THE FIELD

With a very fast lap, right at the beginning of the session, Roberto Colciago repeated his 2002 Pergusa result. Last year, on his first appearance as an Alfa Romeo driver in the FIA ETCC, the Italian driver set the fastest time in the first free practice. This morning, he was clocked at 1:47.017, almost one second faster than every other driver and half a second better than Fabrizio Giovanardi's pole position time from last year. Nicola Larini was the only other driver able to break the 1:48 barrier, setting the second fastest time of the session at 1:47.948. Dirk Müller set the third fastest time - the best for BMW - at 1:48.246, but he was followed by two other Alfa Romeo drivers. Fabio Francia was a surprise fourth fastest in his Clever Cats R&M Team car, just ahead of third Autodelta man Gabriele Tarquini. The fastest SEAT driver was Frank Diefenbacher who was ranked eighth with a lap of 1:49.316 in his Toledo Cupra. A few drivers received black-and-white warning flags for cutting the chicanes, such as Tarquini, Giovanardi, Coronel and Priaulx. The latter had even more serious problems as he twice hit the tyres limiting the Schumacher chicane and badly damaged the front right of his BMW Great Britain car.

FREE PRACTICE 2: ALFA ROMEO CARS DOMINATE

Alfa Romeo cars dominated the second free practice session in Pergusa, setting the first four fastest times. Roberto Colciago reaffirmed his status as the fastest driver so far, improving his morning time by another half a second, going down to an astonishing 1:46.509. Colciago's team-mates Nicola Larini and Gabriele Tarquini set the second and third fastest times, with laps of 1:46.712 and 1:46.737 respectively. But the biggest surprise was caused again by Fabio Francia, who lapped in 1:47.021 at the wheel of his independent Alfa Romeo 156 Gta, only half a second from Colciago's time. This placed him fourth fastest, well ahead of Dirk Müller's BMW 320i (1:47.828) and Frank Diefenbacher's SEAT Toledo Cupra (1:48.038). After his good performance in the first session, Diefenbacher managed to improve both his time and position, cutting another second off the Spanish car's lap time. However, there was no good news for the reigning ETCC champion and winner of both the 2002 Sicilian races, Giovanardi, who was only seventh and in the first session and slipped to ninth in the second.

QUALIFYING: FIRST ETCC POLE FOR COLCIAGO

Roberto Colciago crowned his perfect day in Pergusa by claiming his first pole position in the FIA European Touring Car Championship. After topping the time sheets in both the free practice sessions, the Autodelta driver set a provisional pole position eight minutes into the session, lapping in 1:46.961. Four minutes later he was ousted by his team-mate Gabriele Tarquini, who was clocked at 1:46.839; but immediately afterwards Colciago drastically improved again, with a lap of 1:46.362, claiming the pole position for good. His time also represented a massive improvement of 1.2 seconds compared to last year's pole position.

With Colciago in such good shape, none of the other drivers were able to challenge him for the pole; Tarquini was twice ranked provisionally first: once at the very beginning of the session (1:47.060) and later when he managed to briefly oust Colciago from the top (1:46.839); but finally he had to settle for second position, 0.6 seconds behind. After the end of the session, Tarquini had to report to the Stewards, who disallowed his fourth best time because he cut the Schumacher chicane. But this did not change his qualifying position.

Dirk Müller confirmed himself as the best BMW driver today, setting the session's third-fastest lap at 1:46.915. This also was a massive improvement from last year, as the fastest BMW time in 2002 was Dirk's 1:48.904. As in the free practice sessions, fourth position went to Fabio Francia. With a time of 1:47.013 set with two minutes remaining in the session, the young Italian improved again and claimed his best qualifying position so far in his maiden ETCC season; he was also the fastest of the Independent drivers.

Nicola Larini and Franck Diefenbacher had clocked times which were apparently good for the fifth and seventh positions on the starting grid; but they both had their fastest laps disallowed by the Stewards for cutting the Schumacher chicane. Larini was demoted from fifth to seventh, while Diefenbacher lost seven positions.

Fabrizio Giovanardi and Andy Priaulx took benefit from these penalties and climbed to the fifth and sixth positions respectively. With his BMW 320i penalised by 40 kg ballast after his double win in Magny-Cours, current championship leader Jörg Müller was not able to improve on a disappointing ninth fastest time, just ahead of Jordi Gené, the best of the SEAT drivers after the penalty inflicted to Diefenbacher. The ART Engineering Volvo S60 cars of Rickard Rydell and Sandro Sardelli and the PRO Motorsport Honda Civic of André Couto brought up the rear of the time sheets, due to engine problems.

-fia-

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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Andy Priaulx , Dirk Müller , Jorg Muller , Frank Diefenbacher , Andre Couto , Rickard Rydell , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Nicola Larini , Roberto Colciago