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Zolder: Series qualifying report

Stunning van der Drift gives Olympiacos pole A breathtaking qualifying performance from Superleague Formula by Sonangol rookie Chris van der Drift gave Greek giants Olympiacos pole position for the opening race of round 6 at Zolder in Belgium ...

Stunning van der Drift gives Olympiacos pole

A breathtaking qualifying performance from Superleague Formula by Sonangol rookie Chris van der Drift gave Greek giants Olympiacos pole position for the opening race of round 6 at Zolder in Belgium today.

The 24-year-old consistently improved his times throughout the series' unique knockout stages and beat Davide Rigon of home favourites RSC Anderlecht in the final with a superb lap of 1:18.867 to take his first pole position in just his sixth race weekend in the football-themed championship.

Van der Drift's route to the final was a tough one after he topped Group B with a time that saw him dip below the 1 minute 19 seconds barrier, comfortably clear of his rivals. He then defeated the in-form Yelmer Buurman (AC Milan) in the last eight before accounting for the rapid Max Wissel (FC Basel) in the semis, a contest he led in each sector.

The other Semi-Final saw Rigon get past Robert Doornbos (Corinthians) when the Dutch driver, who set the fastest time of anyone in the Group Stages, made a mistake in turn 1 and couldn't recover his one tenth of a second disadvantage by the end of the lap.

Wissel will start third and Doornbos fourth in tomorrow's first race.

The Quarter Finals also proved to be exciting affairs, particularly the match-ups between championship leader Craig Dolby (Tottenham Hostpur) and third place Wissel and the drivers in second and fifth places, Buurman and van der Drift.

Wissel put Dolby out in a ding-dong battle which saw the German lead in the first sector and the Brit go ahead in sector two before Wissel crossed the line just 0.152 seconds quicker after Dolby made a small mistake at the hairpin.

Van der Drift advanced ahead of Buurman despite losing 0.237 seconds in the first sector alone. He was still trailing in S2, but sneaked through by 0.048s after a storming final part of the lap.

The other two QFs saw fairly comfortably wins for Rigon over Liverpool's James Walker and Doornbos over Marcos Martinez (Sevilla), his time of 1:18.657 being the fastest of the entire qualifying phase.

The results mean English Premier League clubs Liverpool and Tottenham will share the third row tomorrow, with AC Milan and Sevilla on row four.

Earlier, a yellow flag towards the end of Group A's session caught a number of drivers out as they were unable to improve their times.

The flag flew when Duncan Tappy, who was just a tenth shy of making the top four, spun his Flamengo car at Bolderbergbocht while trying to improve his time and became beached in the gravel. That left series returnee Andy Soucek (Sporting Lisbon), Julien Jousse (AS Roma), Tristan Gommendy (Galatasaray) and Maria de Villota (Atletico Madrid) all outside the cut-off zone with no opportunity to set another flying lap.

Group B also ended with a car in the gravel as Superleague Formula debutant Jaap van Lagen spun off at Kanaalbocht after an encouraging first competitive outing in the Bordeaux car. The Dutch driver could still be pleased to set the sixth best time in the group and he was certainly happier than Beijing Guoan's John Martin, who felt he was baulked by Narain Karthikeyan (PSV Eindhoven) on his first flying lap and missed out on a quarter final spot by just one tenth.

FC Porto's Alvaro Parente, race 2 winner at the Nurburgring last time out, also went out in Group B as he failed to recover from the mechanical problems he suffered in practice and was the only driver not to break the one minute 20 seconds barrier.

Chris Van der Drift (Olympiacos): "Finally we've got our pole position! This is really great for the team and starting from the front always makes things easier on race day. I got faster and faster in the knockout stages as I pushed more and found better lines. The plan for tomorrow is for a first feature race win. We want to get some good points to climb further up the league table and after that the Super Final is just a bonus."

Davide Rigon (RSC Anderlecht): "It's fantastic to be on the front row in Anderlecht's home race. The car is good, a bit better than in free practice, and I am sure we will be fast in the races. I'm very happy and looking forward to tomorrow as it's a chance to close the gap to the teams at the top of the table, but it will be important not to make any mistakes."

Max Wissel (FC Basel): "My lap against Craig (Dolby) in the Quarter Final was quite good, but it wasn't as good in the semis against Chris (van der Drift). I had a little problem with understeer and made a mistake in the second sector, which ruined it for me as I'm normally quicker than Chris there and then he's faster in S3. Third is ok though and I've been quick here before. It will be even better if it rains tomorrow, although I don't think it is forecast!"

Robert Doornbos (Corinthians): "I messed it up at turn 1 in my semi final and that sometimes happens when you're pushing. It's a bit frustrating because we had a pole position car today and I was faster than anyone. But the big prizes come tomorrow and I'll try to make a better start than I did at the Nurburgring as we're hoping for our first podium."

-source: sf

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Series SF
Drivers Narain Karthikeyan , Davide Rigon , Robert Doornbos , Alvaro Parente , James Walker , Marcos Martinez , Maria de Villota , Julien Jousse , Jaap van Lagen , Yelmer Buurman , Andy Soucek , Chris van der Drift , John Martin , Duncan Tappy , Max Wissel , Craig Dolby