Brno: Qualifying report

WEATHER The weather in Brno remains hot and sunny, with blue skies and a light breeze. Temperatures were around 23° in the morning, with the track temperature rising to 41° in the afternoon. SECOND CONSECUTIVE POLE FOR JEAN-MARC GOUNON With a...

WEATHER
The weather in Brno remains hot and sunny, with blue skies and a light breeze. Temperatures were around 23° in the morning, with the track temperature rising to 41° in the afternoon.

SECOND CONSECUTIVE POLE FOR JEAN-MARC GOUNON
With a lap of 1:56.695, French driver Jean-Marc Gounon gave the Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7-R its second pole position of the season. " It was difficult this morning. I knew that the Lister would be hard to beat around this track, as it loves this kind of corners. I had to try to make the perfect lap. I missed pole position on my first set of tyres, when I lost the car over the grass, but on the second set, everything was perfect. I knew already this morning that it would be very difficult to improve on my time. Today was a Dunlop challenge, with Saleen and Lister at the front !" Gounon will start alongside Jamie Campbell-Walter, whose best lap in the nr 14 Lister Storm was 0.283 seconds slower than the Saleen. Third place went to the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello of Bobbi and Biagi, winner of the first three races, which is carrying 100 kg penalty weight.

LIEB TAKES THIRD POLE OF THE SEASON
German driver Marc Lieb claimed pole position in the N-GT class after an extremely close session. His nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS was only 0.053 seconds ahead of Pergusa pole-setter, Andrea Bertolini, in the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena. "We have always been one of the fastest cars out there, we are just missing a bit of luck. This is my third pole, but I would rather exchange it for three wins ! But our luck changed at Brno last year, and I hope it will be the same again this year." Lieb's lap of 2:03.371 was set in the faster morning session. The nr 89 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena was third fastest, with Darren Turner setting a time of 2:03.894. Tomas Enge was pleased with fourth place for the MENX Ferrari 360 Modena in its home race.

FIRST QUALIFYING SESSION

GOUNON CLAIMS PROVISIONAL POLE; LIEB FASTEST IN N-GT
Just like in Enna-Pergusa, Jean-Marc Gounon, in the nr 2 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7-R, set provisional pole in the first qualifying session . With an exceptional lap of 1:56.695, set late in the 45-minute session, the Frenchman demoted Jamie Campbell-Walter, who had been on provisional pole for much of the session, to second place. Although the nr 14 Lister went out again just before the chequered flag fell, on new tyres, the British driver met traffic on his lap and was unable to improve on his time of 1:56.978. The nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello of Biagi and Bobbi was third fastest, with a time of 1:57.431, set early in the session. Gollin and Cappellari were fourth, in the nr 22 BMS car, with Deletraz and Piccini in the nr 15 Lister Storm in fifth place. The top seven cars, which set times within two seconds of each other, all set times which were faster than the best time set in qualifying in 2002. The nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello had its times removed, due to failing the ride height test.

In N-GT, Marc Lieb captured provisional pole, with a lap of 2:03.371 in the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS. The 22-year old German driver took pole twenty minutes into the session, demoting the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena to second place. The nr 89 Team Maranello Concessionaires car was third fastest, with Darren Turner setting a time of 2:03.894, while the team's second car struggled slightly with ECU problems and hoped to improve in the second session.

SECOND QUALIFYING SESSION

FORCE ONE AND FREISINGER FASTEST IN SLOWER SESSION
With temperatures rising, the afternoon session was significantly slower than the morning, and there were only two improvements. Anthony Kumpen, at the wheel of the nr 5 Force One Festina Chrysler Viper GTS-R was fastest, with a time of 1:59.757 - over four seconds slower than the morning's pole - set on old tyres and with a full tank of fuel. "We were able to set a consistent pace of 2:00, so it is promising for tomorrow's race." The car will start from sixth place on the grid for tomorrow's 500 km, three-hour race.

The nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello was second fastest, with Philipp Peter setting a time of 2:00.092, placing him and Fabio Babini 11th overall for tomorrow's race. The nr 14 Lister Storm was third, ahead of the pole-setting Konrad Saleen S7-R, the Championship-leading nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia car and the nr 7 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R.

In N-GT, the pole-setting nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R remained fastest, ahead of the nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, while the nr 88 TMC Ferrari, which had struggled in the morning, set the third-best time. However, Mullen and Davies remain 8th on the N-GT grid. The nr 61 EMKA Racing Porsche was fourth fastest, despite having the lap times from the first half of the session cancelled due to ride-height problems. The only N-GT car to improve on its time was the nr 54 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche of Mayall and Khan, which cut two seconds off its time, placing it 14th in the class.

NOTES AND QUOTES

Jean-Marc Gounon - nr 2 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7-R : "It was difficult this morning. I knew that the Lister would be hard to beat around this track, as it loves this kind of corners. I had to try to make the perfect lap. I missed pole position on my first set of tyres, when I lost the car over the grass, but on the second set, everything was perfect. I knew already this morning that it would be very difficult to improve on my time. Today was a Dunlop challenge, with Saleen and Lister at the front, and it was clear that we needed Dunlop to be in front. We were not very lucky in Enna. We broke the gearbox in Magny-Cours; they modified it for Enna and it was going well, but we had another problem, a minor problem which was nothing serious. Now, we have another new gearbox with different material and specifications and I am really crossing my fingers that we will get to the end of the race, especially as Franz Konrad, who is the team owner, has had no chance to drive his own car. If we can get to the end, I think we can be in good shape."

Anthony Kumpen - nr 5 Force One Festina Chrysler Viper GTS-R : "I only drove in the second session, when I was out in race configuration, with 60 litres of fuel. I ran eight laps, with a lap of 1:59 and then 2:00. The tyres were really good, and I think that was a good pace for the race. I think it's promising for the race tomorrow, but I don't want to say too much - we haven 't even done one pit-stop yet this season. But we have not had even the smallest problem yet this weekend, so I really hope it carries on like that in the race tomorrow."

Ian Bickerton - team owner - nr 6 Creation Motorsport : "We have gone back to a basic Lister configuration. We know our race pace is OK, but we just can't get a good qualifying time."

Thomas Erdos - nr 7 Graham Nash Motorsport : "The team did a fantastic effort, putting together a whole car within four or five days after our Pergusa crash. There are obviously a few things to work on, but we are getting there. This track is another new one for us, and we had problems yesterday, losing a session when the throttle stuck, so that makes the learning curve even steeper. But the next race is Donington, where we will be back on familiar territory."

Philipp Peter - nr 9 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello : "I was pretty happy to set the second time in the second session. We had engine problems in the second free practice session yesterday, so we could not do any work on tyre comparisons, which means that we might be running on tyres which are too soft for the first stint tomorrow. We have the speed in the car, but we lack reliability. We had some changes here for Brno, we hope for some more for Donington."

Magnus Wallinder - nr 11 Roos Optima Chrysler Viper GTS-R : "We have been concentrating on the race set-up as we know we can't do one fast lap for Qualifying. We're working hard for the race, we ran with 80 litres of fuel and old tyres. We're getting there; we had dreadful understeer problems previously, and now it is going well. This is really more of a drivers' circuit than some of the previous ones, it is very demanding and I think it is going to be a long hot race tomorrow."

Jamie Campbell-Walter - nr 14 Lister Storm : "Gounon was quick yesterday, in testing, when he did a lap of 1:59 on about his seventh lap, so I knew he would be quick today. He is becoming a thorn in everyone's side. Obviously it is good to have another Dunlop runner up there. It's very close, we've got some ballast and he doesn't, so maybe that is the difference. But I'm really happy, the car was good, and most of the weekend we have been concentrating on the race set-up as we struggled in the last race due to the temperature. So we are working hard to make sure the car is good at the end of the stint."

Matteo Bobbi - nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello : "I am very happy today as we worked very hard yesterday and found a very good set-up, especially for the race tomorrow. Today, I tried to push. The car was good. Tomorrow I think it will be a big fight between us and the Lister. I like this track but tomorrow will be difficult as it will be hot and the tyres might make the difference."

Marc Lieb - nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "We are always one of the fastest cars in our class; we've had three pole positions and I would much prefer to exchange that for three wins ! But we have had bad luck so far, and as our luck changed here last year, I hope it will do so again. We struggled a bit yesterday and this morning with the gearbox, so I am very pleased with the time. Tomorrow will be a hard race - with all the Ferraris behind us. But I hope we will have a fair race - it will be hard, but I hope it will be good fun."

Bert Longin - nr 51 Freisigner Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "The grip at this track is unbelievably low, and we have had to work hard to get more grip, as we were sliding around yesterday. But we found a solution for today. It is very hard work - we were on the pace at Enna, but when we arrived here, we had to start from scratch as we were nowhere. The level of the Championship is so much higher than last year, you have to work extremely hard, but when you manage to place the car in the top three or four, you know you are really doing well. It is really nice to work with Ortelli and Lieb, as they help us a lot. We might be the number two car, but we don't feel like it; there is a real team feeling, which is very important for us. So many of these drivers have been racing since they were children; I only started when I was 30, and this is only my second year in the FIA GT Championship; I am really pleased with the progress so far."

Andrea Bertolini - nr 52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena : "We had a very good fight between me, Darren and Marc today. It was very close, and I think it will be the same tomorrow during the race. We worked hard with Pirelli for the balance of the race, which is going to be very important. The race will be very hard."

The nr 56 Alda Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS had a problem yesterday when a tyre exploded at the end of the straight. After two spins, the driver stopped on the track, without hitting anything. The car had set-up problems this morning, but hoped to do better in the afternoon.

Tomas Enge - nr 57 MENX Ferrari 360 Modena : "This the second time we've had fourth place on the grid, and I hope we will do more than the 10 laps we managed at Magny-Cours. I am pretty confident for the race, but we need a bit of luck in order to run with no problems. Our target is to finish as high as possible, but we hope for the podium. The car is running perfectly, and we are closing in on the leaders, which is looking pretty good. I know the circuit perfectly, as does Robert. We'll have a lot of Czech fans here tomorrow, and I hope not to disappoint them." His team-mate Robert Pergl said : "I am happy with the set-up for tomorrow, but we are hoping for a li ttle luck. I am enjoying this season in the Championship; I have learnt a lot and I am not afraid of the big GT cars any more !"

Mike Jordan - nr 74 Team Eurotech Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "We have had no real problems this weekend, but yet again it's another new place to us. The nr 75 car is handling really well; we have a slight problem with the nr 74 car, which was already running a bit hot in Pergusa. We thought it was an engine problem, so we changed it, but the problem seems to have been carried over, so it might be a cooling issue. We are looking into it now. But the podium for the team in Pergusa was a great boost for everyone, after a hard start to the season."

Tim Mullen - nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires : "We had ECU problems this morning, and we also had a cracked oil system, which was putting oil on our rear tyres. We'd like to improve in the afternoon, but we used both sets of tyres, so we are really not where we should have been."

Darren Turner - nr 89 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena : "We started the weekend with a few problems, and although we seem to have solved them, we have not really done enough laps. It is the first time here for most of the team and drivers, so we are learning about the set-up and how tricky the conditions are, as there does not seem to be much grip. But the circuit is fantastic. I think pole was really between the other two cars, as we are still half a second off the pace of the cars ahead of us."

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Tomas Enge , Franz Konrad , Darren Turner , Matteo Bobbi , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Anthony Kumpen , Marc Lieb , Thomas Erdos , Fabio Babini , Jean-Marc Gounon , Andrea Bertolini , Tim Mullen , Bert Longin , Robert Pergl , Philipp Peter , Mike Jordan