Macau: Friday qualifying notes

PRACTICE 1 LARINI AND CHEVROLET ON TOP Nicola Larini set the fastest lap. The Chevrolet man flew round the track in 2:33.465 followed by Rickard Rydell in his SEAT - 0.198 seconds slower, and the BMW of Jorg Muller 0.787 seconds off the best ...

PRACTICE 1 LARINI AND CHEVROLET ON TOP

Nicola Larini set the fastest lap. The Chevrolet man flew round the track in 2:33.465 followed by Rickard Rydell in his SEAT - 0.198 seconds slower, and the BMW of Jorg Muller 0.787 seconds off the best pace.

Championship leader, Dirk Muller improved on yesterday's times and achieved the fourth quickest lap. Out of the Alfa Romeo drivers it was Farfus who was fastest with a lap in 2:34.679. Again, Tom Coronel was the best of the independent field and 9th overall. Ford Hotfiel Sport's Michael Funke was 11th fastest.

The session had to be red flagged after Macanese driver Ao Chi Hong crashed at the Dona Maria bend. Shortly after resuming, Giovanardi repeated the events of yesterday and smashed into a barrier. This time it was at the Paiol bend, the fastest part of the circuit's uphill section. "The brakes locked and I went into the barrier. Perhaps it was a mistake on my part and perhaps the track was slippery," he said. As for Andy Priaulx, he came back to pits well before the end of the session due to a slow puncture.

PRACTICE 2 PRIAULX AND COUTO FASTEST

Local man Andre Couto had his best practice session so far and looked as though he had set the best time until Andy Priaulx bettered it on his last lap. Priaulx's 2:33.341 demoted the Alfa man to second by 0.223 seconds. Gabriele Tarquini was also consistently fast throughout the session and posted the third best time of 2:33.842. Nicola Larini was fourth fastest in his Chevrolet Lacetti followed by Jorg Muller, Antonio Garcia, Duncan Huisman, Dirk Muller and Augusto Farfus. All of the top eleven drivers' times were within just one second.

Giovanardi took part in the practice after the damage he obtained in the earlier session was repaired. He posted the 13th best time. Peter Terting crashed into the barriers at turn 16 and returned to the pits. Alessandro Zanardi also made contact with a wall but he managed to set the 11th fastest time overall.

Tom Coronel was again the fastest independent and 14th overall in this session, however Simon Harrison and his Honda Integra were close. Peter Scharmach was the best of the Asian Touring Car drivers despite he also hitting a wall.

QUALIFYING VALUABLE POLE FOR PRIAULX

Andy Priaulx will begin from pole position on Sunday, the perfect position in his bid to become World Champion. His time of 2:31.712 broke the previous Guia Race record by four thenths; it was set on the opening lap and numerous periods under red flag conditions meant nobody was able to challenge it. Andre Couto claimed second position, 0.622 seconds behind Priaulx. On the second row there will be a further two Alfas driven by Augusto Farfus and Gabriele Tarquini, providing the team manages to repair the latter that was involved in a massive crash. The other title contenders, Dirk Muller and Fabrizio Giovanardi are placed 6th and 9th respectively.

All three of Chevrolet's drivers made it onto the top ten. Nicola Larini had the best time of 2:32.808 placing him 5th for Sunday's Race 1 while Alain Menu and Robert Huff are 8th and 10th. Rickard Rydell set a time of 2:33.238 to place is SEAT 7th on the grid. Patrick Bernhardt set a time of 2:36.338 which placed the Ford Hotfiel Sport driver 20th, three positions ahead of team-mate Michael Funke. Tom Coronel led the independent pack from 13th position but starting alongside him is another potential Independent trophy winner, Giuseppe Cirò.

The session suffered many disruptions. Red flags were issued after Peter Scharmach crashed coming into the uphill section after the Melco Hairpin, his car stranded across the track. Then, local driver Ao Chi Hong went wide at Fishermen's bend after eleven minutes. It was his first lap and the position of his car meant that the red flags made another appearance. The session was stopped for a third time due to a dramatic collision between Taquini's Alfa and Rydell's SEAT. Tarquini went straight ahead at turn 16 and Rydell, unable to see, crashed straight into the back of him. The impact of the crash meant the two cars were wedged between the barriers. The Italian driver was hospitalized and underwent X-ray examinations for an aching shoulder. In the final few minutes there was an incident involving Farfus and Paul Poon, which caused the red flags to come out again, this time the session was not resumed. Simon Harrison was another victim of this dramatic session, hitting the wall after Turn 1.

-fia-

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