With autumn in the air, the end of the 2006 season is nearly in sight ... and the titles loom large on the horizon. For this penultimate round of what has been an extremely exciting season, the FIA GT Championship has returned to Italy, and the...
With autumn in the air, the end of the 2006 season is nearly in sight ... and the titles loom large on the horizon. For this penultimate round of what has been an extremely exciting season, the FIA GT Championship has returned to Italy, and the modern, innovative Adria Raceway circuit. With its vast indoor paddock, modern facilities and compact, high-tech track, the circuit should prove an interesting backdrop for the title battles.
Qualifying in Adria was always going to be vitally important for Sunday's race, as overtaking is difficult on the tight, compact circuit. Therefore the 20-minute session proved to be fast and furious, the teams setting steadily faster times. However, the final result gave an identical result to that at the Hungaroring : Jarek Janis (Zakspeed Saleen S7) and Andrew Kirkaldy (Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 430 GT2) claimed pole position, for the fourth and eighth time this season respectively. The nr 9 will share the front row with the nr 5 Phoenix Racing, with the nr 1 Vitaphone Maserati third -- the three driver crews which are fighting for the title. AF Corse's Jaime Melo was second in GT2, with newcomer Edil Cris Racing placed its car in a promising third place, Paolo Ruberti at the wheel.
FOURTH POLE FOR JAREK JANIS
The drivers of three cars are still in contention for the 2006 GT1 Drivers Championship, and those three cars will start from the front three positions in tomorrow's race.
Despite 70 kg penalty weight, on a circuit where the weight matters, young Czech driver Janis claimed his fourth pole of the season, after Brno, Dijon and the Hungaroring. He set a time of 1:11.304 in an extremely close session, where all the GT1 cars qualified within 0.8 of a second. Janis shares the car with Sascha Bert, who has a one-point lead over Janis, nine points behind current Championship leaders Bertolini and Bartels. "I am really pleased to be on pole position again," Jarek said. "It was a really tough qualifying session as the gaps are really small. We have 70 kg penalty weight which you can really feel, especially under braking. But we are still competitive."
Alongside the Saleen on tomorrow's starting grid will be the other Championship contenders, Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz in the nr 5 Phoenix Racing Aston Martin DBR9. With less penalty weight than in recent rounds -- 20 kg -- Piccini set a time of 1:11.392, just 88 thousandths slower than Janis. "I am very pleased with this result as we struggled since this morning," Piccini commented. "We had some problems with the brakes, and the team has done a great job to find out what it was, especially when we have such a short time like today."
Third place on the starting grid went to the Championship leaders, the nr 1 Vitaphone Racing Team Maserati MC12, Andrea Bertolini having set a time of 1:11.437, 133 thousandths of a second behind pole. "At the end I had an electrical problem, and I preferred to stop the car so as not to compromise the race. It should not be a problem for tomorrow," Bertolini said.
Fourth place on the grid went to the Lamborghini Murcielago of All-Inkl.com Racing, Christophe Bouchut having set the car's best time so far with a lap of 1:11.529. The car, which was fastest overall in the first free practice session, suffered gear-box problems in second free practice, and the team did an excellent job to get the car out again for a competitive qualifying session, claiming its best starting position to date, and meaning four different makes in the top four.
The third row will be an all-Aston Martin Racing BMS affair, with the nr 24 car ahead of the nr 23. They were followed by the nr 2 Vitaphone Maserati, with the nr 4 GLPK Carsport Corvette in eighth and the nr 33 Race Alliance ninth -- even though the ninth position was only 0.8 behind the pole.
EIGHT OUT OF NINE FOR ANDREW KIRKALDY
In what has become quite a habit, Andrew Kirkaldy claimed pole position in the GT2 class in the nr 62 Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 430 GT2, setting a time of 1:14.622 around the 2.702 km circuit. Apart from Brno, when his team-mate Tim Mullen set pole position, Kirkaldy has managed to place his car on pole at each round. "If I manage to get pole in Dubai, I think I am going to be rather cross about missing pole in Brno by one tenth," Kirkaldy said. "It's been a fantastic year from a qualifying point of view, although not always so good in the races. The team has worked really hard, the cars have been good. It's not easy coming to a circuit like this when you only see it in the morning and you have to qualify in the afternoon."
With the title battle in GT2 down to the two AF Corse Ferrari teams, Jaime Melo set the second-fastest time in qualifying in the nr 58 car, despite being the heaviest car in terms of handicap weight of all the cars on the track. The nr 59 AF Corse car of Salo and Aguas, the only other car still in contention for the title, was sixth. They need to finish three points ahead of the nr 58 in order to keep on fighting until Dubai. "Qualifying was very important, especially in this track," Melo said. "Of course, the race is very long. I hope we manage to finish the race and finish the Championship in this way tomorrow."
The nr 82 Edil Cris Racing Team placed its Ferrari 430 GT2 in third position on the grid for its debut in the FIA GT Championship. Paolo Ruberti set a time of 1:15.013, and was delighted with the team's performance. "It is a good surprise for us to be in the top three after qualifying, as the FIA GT Championship is really competitive. We think the car and the tyres will be really good for the race, so we will see how we get on," Ruberti said.
Fourth position went to the nr 55 JMB GruppeM Ferrari of Tim Sugden and Iradj Alexander, ahead of the nr 63 Scuderia Ecosse of Franchitti and Mullen. The nr 59 was sixth, ahead of the Ebimotors and Felbermayr Porsches.
VERTIGO IMPROVING IN G2
The sole car competing in the G2 category this weekend, the Belgian Racing Gillet Vertigo of Leinders and Kuppens, qualified in 18th position overall, behind the two Ebimotors Porsches. "This morning we struggled so we tried to find a good set-up, and it was not too bad," Bas Leinders said. "Unfortunately I had a slow puncture on my left rear during qualifying, so the handling of the car was not perfect. But we are quite happy with how things have gone today."
AN EXTREMELY CLOSE SESSION
Bouchut was the first to set provisional pole, with a lap of 1:12.390, five minutes into the session. Piccini then improved to 1:11.613, then again to 1:11.392. At this stage, Melo was on provisional GT pole with a time of 1:14.999, but eight minutes into the session, Kirkaldy improved to 1:14.808 to move into the lead, setting an even better time three minutes later to definitively claim pole.
Ten minutes into the session, neither the nr 4 Corvette nor the nr 9 Saleen had set a time. Janis proceeded to put the Zakspeed car in fourth place on his first lap, claiming provisional pole with his second with a time of 1:11.342. The nr 1 Vitaphone Maserati improved to third.
Proving how close the times were, Kumpen, at the wheel of the nr 4 Corvette, set his personal fastest first sector time, and the fastest overall second sector time, but still remained 8th -- seven tenths behind pole.
Four minutes before the end, Janis improved on his best time, setting a lap of 1:11.304, 88 thousandths ahead of Piccini. At the very end the nr 1 stopped on the side of the track with possible electrical problems.