Dirk Muller sets the pace in fight for the World Touring Car Championship.
Valencia (Spain), 1st October 2005. Dirk Muller (GER) secured third place in qualifying for the 17th race of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) in Valencia. On the Circuit de la Comunitat Ricardo Tormo, the BMW Team Deutschland driver clocked a personal best of 1:43.277 minutes shortly before the end of the 30-minute timed session. It puts the 29-year-old in the second row of the grid behind the two SEAT drivers Jordi Gene (ESP) and Peter Terting (GER). In Istanbul almost a fortnight ago, Dirk Muller had ceded the championship lead to his fellow BMW driver Andy Priaulx (GBR) of BMW Team UK. However, for the two races in Spain he now has an excellent starting position to ensure an exciting continuation of the battle for the title.
"I wouldn't have expected to be so far up the grid," said Dirk Muller, who is racing in Valencia with an extra 55 kilos on board. "A place in the second row is a fantastic result. My immediate rivals in the Drivers' World Championship are in the middle of the field and I want to make the most of this opportunity. In the end every point can be decisive. My car's handling was very good and I still have a few changes in mind for tomorrow. I think we will see two exciting races involving some hard-fought battles."
Priaulx, carrying the maximum handicap load of 60 kilograms, complained after qualifying about strong understeer on his BMW 320i. It meant the reigning European Touring Car Champion failed to get beyond 15th place. But Priaulx will be moving up one slot on the grid for Sunday's first race as Tom Coronel (NLD) is being relegated ten places back after an engine change in his SEAT. The closest rival to the BMW drivers Dirk Muller and Priaulx for the title contest is third-ranking Fabrizio Giovanardi (ITA), starting for Alfa Romeo from twelfth on the grid.
Both Jorg Muller (GER) of BMW Team Deutschland and local hero Antonio Garcia (ESP), racing for BMW Team Italy-Spain, are also nurturing hopes of a good result on the 4.005-kilometre circuit. Jorg Muller came seventh in qualifying. On his sixth lap, the 35-year-old briefly came off the track and had to make an unscheduled pit stop. However, just before the close of qualifying he managed to better his time. Garcia will be entering the 17th World Championship race of the year from ninth position. His team-mate Alessandro Zanardi (ITA), meanwhile, has some major catching up to do if he wants to pick up points for the fifth time in succession. Currently tenth in the drivers' rankings, he will be starting the race from 20th place on the grid.
The best private BMW driver was Carl Rosenblad (SWE), who secured 17th place in his BMW 320i. The leader in the Independents Trophy, Marc Hennerici (GER), also driving BMW, qualified for 25th place on the grid. The first race starts on Sunday at 15.15 hrs. Race two on the Spanish Mediterranean coast follows at 16.20 hrs.