BMW driver Andy Priaulx starts from second row of the grid in Valencia.

Valencia (Spain), 19th May 2007. The reigning World Champion, Andy Priaulx (GBR), claimed third place on the grid for the fifth round of the World Touring Car Championship in Valencia. In qualifying at the "Circuit de Comunitat", the BMW Team UK driver set a personal best time of 1:44.114 minutes. He was just 0.160 seconds slower than pole-sitter James Thompson (GBR/Alfa Romeo). Yvan Muller (FRA/SEAT) finished second in what was the most thrilling qualifying session of the season to date. The top 19 drivers were separated by one second.

"This was an extremely close affair," commented Priaulx, who races this weekend in Valencia carrying a handicap weight of 45 kilograms. "Every small mistake would have meant a loss of many positions. Therefore, I'm exceptionally delighted with my third place. I pushed hard on every lap and gave 100 percent - which increases the risk of committing mistakes. However, all went well, and I managed to improve in the closing stages of the session."

Current championship leader, Augusto Farfus (BRA) of BMW Team Germany, also secured a promising grid position for the first of two sprint races at the 4.005- kilometre track. On the birthday of Schnitzer Team Manager Charly Lamm and his brother Dieter, the 23-year-old recorded a lap time of 1:44.265 minutes, which earned him seventh place on the timesheets. Farfus, like Priaulx, succeeded in scoring points in all four WTCC races of the season so far.

BMW Team Italy-Spain's Felix Porteiro (ESP) suffered a dose of bad luck. The local hero was on his way to posting a good lap time, which could have meant a top-three position for the rookie. Due to a gearbox problem, however, the racing driver from Castellon near Valencia had to abort his final assault. Next to Porteiro, Jorg Muller (GER) will start from row seven tomorrow. While his team-mate Farfus carries 50 kilograms of handicap weight, Muller had to take an extra 45 kilograms on board his car. Alessandro Zanardi (ITA), who is also competing for BMW Team Italy-Spain, had to make do with 18th place.

Conditions for the qualifying session were ideal. With 26 degrees Celsius and bright sunshine, a total of 27 drivers started their hunt fur quick lap times and good grid positions. All five BMW national team drivers launched a final assault in the closing minutes of the session. At the end of the day, it was Priaulx who made the biggest improvement just in time. "I have lost some fractions of a second in the final corner", added the 32-year-old. "Maybe I could have gone a bit faster. Now I'm looking forward to tomorrow's races. My goal is obvious: I want to have two good races and take home lots of points."

The fifth round of the World Touring Car Championship starts on Sunday at 10:20hrs. Eurosport 2 will broadcast live. Eurosport will show highlights of race one directly before the start of the second round at 15:35hrs.

-credit: bmw