Dubai, qualifying: Kobayashi on pole!
Today, the DAMS drivers took part in free practice and qualifying for the second round of the 2008-09 Asian GP2 Championship on the Dubai circuit. The French team came to this event as favourite after its good results in China and impressive test sessions on the Jerez and Le Castellet circuits.
This time it was racing, and one-and-a-half months after Shanghai the teams arrived in the Arab Emirates, where DAMS will have an opportunity to take over the head of the classification with Kamui Kobayashi and Jerome d'Ambrosio. The French squad's drivers have always been at the top of the time sheets this autumn, and they were out to confirm their potential in free practice.
The Japanese was among the quickest on Thursday morning continuing the promise seen in last month's tests. Finally, he finished second beaten by the tiny gap of 1/1000 sec by New Zealand rookie Earl Bamber. In qualifying, it was another story and Kamui stunned his rivals with pole in 1 m 41.091 sec, 184/100 sec quicker than his fellow countryman Yamamoto.
D'Ambrosio was fourth quickest in free practice, but in qualifying the Belgian fell back, and he finished tenth after being baulked on his final flying lap.
The weather conditions for practice on the Dubai circuit, which hosted the final of the previous Asian GP2 Championship, were good. It was dry without strong winds as can sometimes be the case in this region. The track was pretty dirty and gradually became cleaner as the cars racked up the laps. DAMS confirmed its status as favourite after practice with Kobayashi's pole and D'Ambrosio in a position to score points.
Eric Boullier, team manager: "Obviously, we're delighted with Kamui's pole. He again showed that he's the quickest driver in the field in keeping with the consistency he's shown over the past two months. Jerome also made a good start but his final time doesn't reflect his potential. Had Kamui not been on his line he could have qualified in fourth or fifth place. Overall, we're feeling pretty optimistic for the race. Practice wasn't upset by rain so let's hope it stays dry for the next couple of days."
Kamui Kobayashi: "I'm really happy with my pole position. It's important, all the more so as my main rivals in the championship are several places behind me. I'm fully concentrated on my main objective, winning tomorrow's long race. It won't be easy. The weather seems good for the moment and the car suits me down to the ground. So I'm ready, and I'm going to give my all."
Jerome d'Ambrosio: "It all began well with the fourth quickest time in free practice. But in qualifying on my last flying lap Kamui was on my line in the last corner and he didn't see me. I lost vital tenths and as the times are very close I couldn't do better than tenth. But there are several overtaking spots here on the Dubai circuit, and I'm going to push to climb up through the fiel d. I'll do everything in my power to get near the rostrum."