Ricardo Zonta and Narain Karthikeyan blows away in Curitiba.
The Brazilian is confident about his chances on Sunday; Karthikeyan and Andre Couto also made a huge performance.
Curitiba, 30 November 2002 - Ricardo Zonta and Narain Karthikeyan took the pole position in both qualifying sessions at the Autódromo Internacional de Curitiba (Brasil) that holds the 8th round of the Telefónica World Series by Nissan. The Brazilian driver is the favourite for the victory on Sunday because he grabbed a spot on the front row of the grid in both races. But Andre Couto and Karthikeyan made a huge performance. Franck Montagny and Bas Leinders, who are battling for the second place in Championship standings, had not lucky on Saturday.
The changing weather has been an upset guest in Curitiba. It has been raining hard just minutes before the qualifying session began although the sun has shined when it has started. The drivers started the session in wet track conditions and then pitted as the track was getting dry.
During the wet track, Zonta preferred to stay at box. The Brazilian, who was proclaimed champion in Valencia, steadily pulled away to score hi 6th pole of the season after improving from free practice. But it was not easy: he battled against Andre Couto, who had been the fastest during free practice in the morning. Zonta and his FC Barcelona-backed Gabord Competicion car lapped 1m10.092 seconds, 0.339 clear of Couto.
The Swedish living in Spain Peter Sundberg slipped to third in qualifying for race one, his best result this season, and Narain Karthikeyan was fourth ahead of Justin Wilson, reigning FIA Formula 3000 champion, and Sperafico.
Leinders and Montagny took poor positions here at Curitiba: the Belgium driver just completed one lap due to a problem with the gearbox and will start from the back row. He is confident to the second session. On the other hand, the French driver, who changed the engine this morning, ended the qualifying in 12th place, more than a second behind Zonta.
It was a hot session. Karthikeyan gave his team its first pole at Curitiba, crowning two days of flat-out work: he reached the quickest time at the beginning of the qualifying and was on the thick of the battle for pole. World Series champion Ricardo Zonta took second spot in his Gabord Competición car just 0.004 seconds behind the Indian driver.
Andre Couto was third quickest 0.016s behind the first. 16 drivers packed in the same second showing the quality of all of them.
Montagny will start the second race from the second row on the grid, improving from the session before. His team-mate Justin Wilson dropped back in the second session to the 12th place. Antonio García and Tuka Rocha will share the third row. Bas Leinders could drive and went in the right direction but went too far and he will start 7th. Peter Sundberg also dropped back to the 16th place and flew off the road at a hairpin: he stopped in the middle of the track and fortunately was unhurt.
Ricardo Zonta claimed the "torcida" support on Sunday, not only to assist an astonishing meeting but also to contribute an action of solidarity: anyone carrying 1 kg of food will have free access. The food will be destined to a campaign named "Christmas without hunger".
The local supporters want a Brazilian driver to be champion. Their favourite is Zonta, who was born in this city of the Paraná state 26 years ago, and also Tuka Rocha, Rodrigo Sperafico and Jaime Melo (they are from Paraná too) and Wagner Ibrahim from Sao Paulo. The US driver Paul Edwards and Milka Duno from Venezuela are rookies in the main category of Telefónica World Series by Nissan.
"It's has been a very difficult first Qualifying session. I decided to wait 10 minutes or so because it rained before the session started and I was lucky, although it's quite hard to find a nice set up in these changing conditions. In the 2nd Qualifying I was on new tyres but there was no grip. Anyway, 16 drivers are packed in just one second and Y imagine this will give an idea of how competitive this Series are."
"I've been really unlucky in the last four races but I really deserved this good result. In India, the World Series are getting more and more popular every day thanks to the live TV coverage".
"The rain before the session started made it difficult to find a good balance with the car.I was lucky to be close to the best timed lap from Zonta. Such equality between the drivers means good races tomorrow. In these cases, the best thing is to start from the firts rows. It's really a pleasure to race in the same team as Milka. (Duno) She is doing a very good job this week-end, and this is really a challenge."
"I had a lot of fever these last days so I was really weak. I thought that in rainy conditions it should not be that hard to drive. But even when the track was getting dry, our car got a good pace. I've lost the control of my car at the end of the second session. My car was in the middle of the track and Burgeño passed through the grass! I just took off my helmet but then again I didn't know if I have to putted again!"
The schedule for tomorrow (local time)
Tomorrow, the first World Series race will take place at 10:30 (22 laps) and the second race will be at 13:00 (33 laps with a compulsory pit stop).