ETCC: Silverstone: Qualifying report

QUALIFYING The scrutineers cleared all the twenty-one cars entered to take part in free practice and qualifying. The second RJN Motorsport Nissan Primera, which missed the first two rounds at Magny-Cours, finally took to the track. However,...

QUALIFYING

The scrutineers cleared all the twenty-one cars entered to take part in free practice and qualifying. The second RJN Motorsport Nissan Primera, which missed the first two rounds at Magny-Cours, finally took to the track. However, Chris Goodwin was at the wheel of the car, instead of Chris Buncombe, who had previously been announced as the driver. "We tried hard to give Buncombe the opportunity to drive, but in the end it was not possible to reach an agreement," team manager Bob Neville said. Goodwin, 35-year-old from London, is a very experienced driver; his career moved from single seaters to touring cars and then to GT; he is currently working as a development driver for the McLaren Group. "The FIA European Touring Car Championship is the sort of racing I would like to be doing, because it fits with the view I have of motor sport: racing on international tracks and against international drivers. I am very much focusing on doing my best this weekend, so that we can talk about the rest of the season on Sunday night," Goodwin commented.

WEATHER
Overcast and cold with a threat of rain.

FREE PRACTICE: ALFA STILL FASTEST, BUT BMW AND VOLVO CLOSE THE GAP In the first practice session Nicola Larini set the best time of 2:02.276 in his Gta Racing Team Nordauto Alfa Romeo 156 Gta. Larini was 0.125 seconds faster than his team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi, while AGS Motorsport driver Paolo Ruberti, also in an Alfa Romeo 156 Gta, was classified third, 0.2seconds behind. Once again, Dirk Muller was the best BMW driver, placing his BMW Team Deutschland car in fourth position (2:02.596) ahead of Tom Ferrier's Dart Racing Alfa 156 Gta (2:02.780) and Rickard Rydell's Volvo S60 (2:02.918). Rydell only completed one fast lap before going off and remaining stuck in the gravel trap. Three cars suffered from technical problems: Tommy Rustad's RJN Motorsport Nissan Primera had a broken airbox mounting, Peter Kox's Carly Motors-Team Isert BMW 320i ran on three cylinders due to a connection failure and Salvatore Tavano's CiBiEmme Honda Civic, which now complies with the FIA Super 2000 technical regulations but whose engine is still not fully developed, covered only one lap. In the second session, Giovanardi was fastest with a lap of 2:01.689, less than two tenths of a second faster than Fredrik Ekblom's RBM BMW 320i and Rydell's Volvo S60. The gaps separating the top cars were very small: Larini, in fourth place, was only 0.210 seconds behind Giovanardi. Dirk and Jorg Muller set the fifth and sixth times. In this session Tavano managed to complete ten laps in his brand new Civic, closing the gap to 5.9 seconds.

QUALIFYING: SECOND POLE FOR GIOVANARDI; VOLVO IN THIRD PLACE

Giovanardi and Larini repeated their Magny-Cours qualifying results setting the fastest times and claiming another all-Alfa Romeo front row on the grid for tomorrow's race one. From the start of the 30-minute session, the two Gta Racing Team Nordauto drivers were fighting for the pole. On his first timed lap Giovanardi set a time of 2:01.036, which was immediately beaten by Larini's 2:01.025; but in the following lap Giovanardi recovered the provisional pole with 2:00.975. While Volvo and BMW drivers were struggling to close the gap, improving lap after lap, Giovanardi pushed even harder halfway through the session and clocked a time of 2:00.153 which proved to be unbeatable.

Behind current Championship leader Giovanardi, a fierce battle took place between Larini, Rydell, Ferrier, the two Mullers, Ekblom and Kox for the remaining front positions on the starting grid. With eleven minutes remaining, Rydell set a lap of 2:00.693, to take second position from Larini. But Larini did not give up and recovered his front row place alongside his team-mate, improving his time to 2:00.349 towards the end of the session. A few seconds later Ferrier set a time of 2:01.150 to claim fourth position on the starting grid.

BMW drivers will fill the third and fourth row of the grid for Race one. Jorg Muller was classified fifth (2:01.198) ahead of Peter Kox (2:01.265), Dirk Muller (2:01.271) and Ekblom (2:01.424).

Ruberti and Tom Coronel completed the top ten, while Rustad qualified his Nissan in 11th and Romana Bernardoni obtained a good 13th, right behind Luis Villamil.

Fabrizio De Simone (BMW Team Spain BMW 320i) could not improve on 16th position, as he was suffering from an extremely stiff neck. Tavano improved again his time, while working on the set-up of his Honda Civic.

Gianni Morbidelli (17th) and Eric Cayrolle (18th) were very disappointed by their results: the Italian Carly Motors-Team Isert Italian driver blamed set-up problems, while the Frenchman's Scuderia Bigazzi Alfa Romeo 156 Gta stopped with a gearbox failure.

Neither Chris Goodwin nor Sandro Sardelli took part in the session. RJN Motorsport withdrew Goodwin's Nissan from the event because of major transmission problems, while Sardelli's CiBiEmme Super Production Honda Civic also had a gearbox failure.

Quotes

Fabrizio Giovanardi, nr 1 Gta Racing Team Nordauto, "Of course I'm very pleased with this second consecutive pole position of the season. The team did a very good job in setting up the car and all I had to do was to concentrate on finding a clear lap. But despite that, it was not as easy at it was in Magny-Cours. We knew the other teams were working extremely hard to close the gap and the times achieved by Rickard Rydell in the Volvo proved that from now on life will be much harder for us. The supremacy we showed in the first meeting could not last for long, because the I am sure that the new regulations will be successful in balancing the different cars' performances. It will be a very tough championship, starting from tomorrow's races. We will have to push much harder than we did in Magny-Cours and that is why I'm happy that Alfa Romeo technicians worked so much before this meeting to fix the gearbox problems we had in France."

Nicola Larini, nr 2 Gta Racing Team Nordauto, "I am a bit disappointed with myself, because this morning all the team spent a lot of time looking for the right set-up. We knew that it was vital to choose the best solution in order to improve of a few tenths, because the free practice showed that the Volvos and BMWs are closer to us. The times that Fabrizio and I achieved at the beginning of the session meant that we have worked in the right way, but later on I made a couple of mistakes with the gearbox that cost me any chance to steal the pole position from my team-mate. I also risked going off at Copse right at the end of my fastest lap. I hadn't realised I was so much quicker then in the previous laps; luckily I managed to countersteer over the grass, recovering the racing line; but it was a big risk. But in the end I was happy to have ousted Rydell from the second position on the grid. I think that tomorrow the races will be very tough, with Rydell breathing down our necks and I'm sure that BMW drivers will be serious contenders too."

Rickard Rydell, nr 60 Volvo S60 Racing Team, "This is a big step forward for Volvo and for me after our first FIA European Touring Car Championship outing in Magny-Cours. The team has worked very hard to close part of the gap we had in France. Obviously we are still half a second off the pace of the works Alfas, but today we made our first step towards becoming a serious threat for them. Our car has improved a lot in terms of set-up and speed; the gearbox also is working a lot better. We know we still have to find more power to be competitive with Giovanardi and Larini, but for now I am quite satisfied. I expected to be alongside the best BMW and eventually I qualified in front of them. Now I am very confident for tomorrow because the S60 is very good through the long and sweeping corners here at Silverstone. I am sure that we will be able to further reduce the gap over the race distance."

-etcc-

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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Dirk Müller , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Chris Goodwin , Peter Kox , Eric Cayrolle , Rickard Rydell , Gianni Morbidelli , Paolo Ruberti , Salvatore Tavano , Nicola Larini , Tommy Rustad