Priaulx and Farfus claim top-three grid positions for BMW in Macau.
Macau, 20th November 2009. In a dramatic qualifying session Andy Priaulx (GB) and Augusto Farfus (BR) secured good grid positions for the season finale of the FIA World Touring Car Championship in Macau (CN). Priaulx did a time of 2:32.483 minutes for BMW Team UK at the "Guia Circuit" to take second on the grid for round 23. The triple world champion was just 0.342 seconds slower than pole-sitter Robert Huff (GB/Chevrolet). BMW Team Germany driver Farfus set the third-fastest lap time in the second part of qualifying.
Farfus' team-mate, Jorg Muller (DE), also made it into the top-ten, taking sixth in the former Portuguese colony. Neither of the BMW Team Italy-Spain drivers, however, advanced to "Q2". Alessandro Zanardi (IT) finished 11th, while Sergio Hernandez (ES) was 15th.
BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen commented: "As expected today's qualifying turned out to be a gamble with loads of yellow flags, red flags and accidents. I hope none of the drivers involved is seriously injured. From our teams Augusto, Andy and Jorg managed to make it into the second part of qualifying. We are satisfied with second and third. Jorg finished sixth after he was caught in traffic, but this still is a good starting point as conditions for Sunday's races are again unpredictable."
Several heart stopping incidents caused long delays. In the first part Lada's James Thompson (GB) crashed into the rear of BMW privateer Stefano D'Aste's (IT) car, which was parked on the left side of the track. The Race Director had opted not to red-flag the session to let the marshals remove the BMW 320si WTCC. Fortunately Thompson was able to get out of his car by himself, and was then taken to Macau hospital for a check up. In the second leg of qualifying more accidents happened in the same section of the notorious street circuit: First Yvan Muller (FR/SEAT) went off on the slippery track, which was still covered with concrete dust following the clear up after Thompson's incident.
Moments after Muller hit the barriers heavily, Gabriele Tarquini (IT/SEAT) and Alain Menu (CH/Chevrolet) did the same. Like Thompson and Tarquini, Muller was taken for a medical check, but gave the thumbs up to say he was okay. Due to all these red-flags and clearing up on the track, the total time for qualifying added up to 80 minutes and only finished when darkness was about to set in over the "Guia Circuit".
"First of all it's important that the drivers who had accidents are fine," said Priaulx. "This was an amazingly exciting qualifying session. Of course I'm really happy I wasn't involved in any accident, and have a front-row grid position for the season finale. On Sunday I will do all I can to help BMW and Augusto win the titles."
Farfus, who was the best-placed BMW driver in "Q1" by finishing sixth, added: "This qualifying was pure chaos. In the first phase the SEATs were really strong, but the accidents turned everything upside down in Q2. I'm happy with P3. But I hope that SEAT manages to repair the cars of Gabriele Tarquini and Yvan Muller, as the title should be decided in a fair competition on Sunday."
With two races left Farfus is third in the Drivers' Championship. The gap to Tarquini and Muller is 13 and 11 points respectively. In the manufacturers' classification, BMW has 286 points, only three points behind SEAT who lead the championship. On Sunday the first race starts at 12:05hrs local time (04:05hrs GMT), with the second getting underway at 13:25hrs (5:25hrs GMT).