Macau: BMW Motorsport qualifying notes

Priaulx clinches pole with lap record in Macau. Macau (China), 18th November 2005. During qualifying for round 19 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, Andy Priaulx (GBR) claimed his first pole position of the season. The BMW Team UK...

Priaulx clinches pole with lap record in Macau.

Macau (China), 18th November 2005. During qualifying for round 19 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, Andy Priaulx (GBR) claimed his first pole position of the season. The BMW Team UK driver clocked a best time of 2.31.712 minutes in the very first lap on the Guia Circuit, undercutting the lap record for the 6.2-kilometre street circuit set up last year by BMW Team Deutschland driver Jorg Muller (GER). "It's a fantastic result," said Priaulx. "From the start my car handled really well. In qualifying the balance was good too. It paid off to go on the attack right at the start, as later it became difficult to make good times because of the many interruptions."

But that doesn't mean the rivals of the reigning European Touring Car Champion have been shaken off in the battle for the World Championship title. Dirk Muller (GER) of BMW Team Deutschland, who heads the drivers' rankings with a one-point lead over Priaulx and is celebrating his 30th birthday today, is in sixth place on the grid for the penultimate race of the season. Fabrizio Giovanardi (ITA), third in the championship, is in ninth position for Alfa Romeo.

BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen, who has come to Macau for the final races of the FIA WTCC, said of the qualifying results: "With his pole position Andy has earned himself a good starting position for Sunday's races and delivered an outstanding performance. To shave more than half a second off his rivals with his maximum weight handicap of 60 kilograms is impressive. But we are aware that a great deal can happen in Macau. Qualifying has already shown how accidents and spins can influence events here. So, as before, we'll just have to wait until after tomorrow's races to see who emerges as World Champion."

As is par for the course in Macau, the drivers had to contend with a turbulent qualifying session marked by several interruptions and an early end. Following two red flags at the beginning of the session, Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) and Rickard Rydell (SWE) collided in the R bend with five minutes to go, bringing on the race marshals once again to remove the cars. Then, a few seconds before the end, Augusto Farfus jr (BRA) and Paul Poon (HKG) also collided. Apart from damage to the vehicles, all drivers emerged unscathed if slightly shaken.

The other drivers in the BMW national teams were unable to exploit the full potential of their BMW 320i cars due to the frequent stoppages. BMW Team Deutschland driver Jorg Muller (GER), struggling with a heavy cold, finished eleventh, while Antonio Garcia (ESP) of BMW Team Italy-Spain came twelfth. Duncan Huisman (NLD), competing for BMW Team Holland, ended up in 16th place after technical problems. Garcia's team-mate Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) will be starting from 27th on the grid on Sunday.

-bmw-

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