BMW driver Alessandro Zanardi takes second grid position in Istanbul.
Istanbul (Turkey), 23rd September 2006. In the qualifying session for the 15th round of the 2006 FIA World Touring Car Championship, Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) of BMW Team Italy-Spain claimed second position. Posting a personal best time of 2:06.427 minutes, he was just 0.138 seconds slower than SEAT driver Rickard Rydell (SWE), who took pole position. Rydell's brand-mate Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) finished third. After only ten minutes of the 30-minute session, it started raining at the "Istanbul Speed Park" which made it impossible for the drivers to improve on their lap times.
Zanardi had already delivered convincing performances in the two free practice sessions of the day, setting the fastest lap time in each practice. "The car has been working extremely well since the very first outing here," said the former Formula One driver after qualifying. "This track is similar to Brno in a couple of ways. And there we were able to compete at the top of the field. Therefore, I was hoping that we would also be competitive in Istanbul. Apparently, this is the case. Maybe I would have had the chance to make life a little bit more difficult for Rickard if the rain had not started. Nevertheless, I'm really happy to start from second row tomorrow." After his third grid position in Brno three weeks ago, this is the most successful qualifying of Zanardi's WTCC career to date.
The second-fastest driver of the BMW national teams was BMW Team Italy-Spain's Duncan Huisman (NLD). The 34-year-old set a personal best time of 2:06.806 minutes, which saw him take fifth place on the grid - his best qualifying result this season. Dirk Müller (GER) of BMW Team Germany also made it into the top ten: Carrying 55 kilograms of handicap weight aboard his BMW 320si WTCC, the BMW works driver secured eighth place. His team-mate Jörg Müller (GER), who is currently ranked fourth in the championship, finished 12th. Due to an engine change on Peter Terting's (GER) car and a ten-place grid penalty for the SEAT driver, the 37-year-old will start the first race on Sunday from 11th position.
Championship leader Andy Priaulx (GBR) of BMW Team UK also moves up one place thanks to Terting's penalty, and will line up on 14th grid position for race one. The reigning touring car champion is the only driver in the field carrying the maximum ballast of 80 kilograms in Istanbul.
With temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius and increasing rainfalls, the drivers took the opportunity in qualifying to work on their cars' set-up in wet conditions. This might prove useful tomorrow, as the weather experts also forecast rain showers for Sunday's WTCC rounds 15 and 16. The first race in Istanbul will start tomorrow at 15:10hrs local time (13:10hrs BST). The red lights go out for race two at 16:20hrs (14:20hrs BST). EUROSPORT will broadcast both WTCC races at the 5.333- kilometre track live.