Donington Saturday Qualifying Practice

FIA GT Championship 04 - 06 September 1998 Donington Round Saturday 5 September 1998 - 1st qualifying practice session _________________________________________________________________ Weather Saturday dawned grey and extremely wet...

FIA GT Championship

04 - 06 September 1998

Donington Round

Saturday 5 September 1998 - 1st qualifying practice session



Saturday dawned grey and extremely wet ; by the time the morning qualifying session started, the rain had slowed to a soft drizzle. During the 60-minute session, the weather remained changeable, making the choice of tyres difficult for the teams. It was dry, then wet, then quite wet, then dry again, Bernhard Müller of Krauss Race Sports explained.

Changeable session

Due to the vagaries of the weather, the first qualifying session saw many different drivers at the top of the timing screens, with the GT1 times gradually improving as the track dried.

At the start of the session, the two Persson Mercedes CLK-GTR cars were the fastest on the track, while Schneider spent much of the early part in the pits. Towards the end of their time on the track, the times had improved beyond those set in Friday's free practice, with AMG's Zonta and Schneider swapping fastest times with David Brabham's Panoz.

Zonta on provisional pole

Eventually, it was Ricardo Zonta who set the best time, with a fastest lap of 1:24.138 - approximately three tenths slower than Schneider's 1997 pole time. I had good luck I think, the young Brazilian said afterwards. It was a safe lap, and everything came together. Zonta is definitely bound for Formula One next year. I am speaking to Sauber, BAR and Jordan, he said. Last year I didn't have many opportunities to go into F1. I decided to wait here and get some more experience. I've gained a lot - race experience and technical experience - everything helps.

Panoz ahead of Schneider

David Brabham, who celebrates his birthday today, set the second fastest time in the first session. It was not too bad, the DAMS Panoz driver said. The conditions were better when everyone was out on the track, so it was difficult to get a quick lap. I put on qualifiers and got a clear lap, but it was too early; the track was getting better and better.

The Panoz was barely one tenth of a second faster than Championship leader Schneider, with Alzen the best of the Porsche AG cars in fourth place. The older Persson cars, which had been the fastest in the worst conditions, finished in fifth and sixth places.

Marcos again !

Cor Euser continued his series of excellent qualifying performances in the Marcos LM600 by setting the best GT2 time in the first session. With a time of 1:31.710, he was ninth overall. It all combined on one lap, Euser said. But it was risky - if you go 20 cm off the line, you're in the wall. The last lap was the best, although at the hairpin it was still 25% wet. Earlier in the session, Harald Becker had taken the Marcos for an impressive series of spins on the wet track. He was warming up the tyres for me ! Euser joked.

Vipers second and third

Initially, the best placed Viper Team Oreca car was only third in the GT2 category, as the # 56 Roock Racing car, driven by Stephane Ortelli set the second-best time. But the Roock Porsche's time was excluded by decision of the Stewards, due the supercharging pressure which overshot the limit (1,91 bar). Wendlinger and Bell were therefore second, with category leaders Beretta and Lamy third. It was good for us, Wendlinger said. The car worked well. We put the new slicks on a bit too early, as the last bit was driest. But we were afraid it would start to rain again. It was very difficult to judge things.

GP Motorsport excluded

Car #80, the Ford Saleen Mustang entered by new team GP Motorsport for Patrick Watts and Charlie Cox, has not been able to race due to problems with scrutineering. The roll cage does not conform to the homologated version, and there are also problems due to the suppression of structural tubes into the engine compartment, and the exhaust manifold in the cockpit.

Mini-Interview : Massimilliano Angelelli

Italian driver Angelelli returned to the FIA GT Championship at Suzuka; he has now moved to the Zakspeed team, where he is sharing a Porsche 911 GT1 '98 with Michael Bartels. Last year he drove a Porsche GT1 in Helsinki and Spa, as well as a Lotus at the end of the season. "I was originally a single-seater driver, and now I've moved to GT racing. They are great cars, and great races, but single-seaters will always be in my heart."

Angelelli was a Formula Three driver for a long time, and still occasionally races at Macau. "Half of me wants to go back to Macau, half of me doesn't. It would be better if I didn't get an offer, as that way I don't have to think about it. It's too difficult to say no, as I love driving those cars."

The opportunity to drive for Zakspeed came very recently, although he has known the team for a long time, as he drove in German Formula 3 while Zakspeed was competing in the DTM. "I actually raced against team-owner Peter Zakowski in Formula 3 back in 1989 !," he said. However, this is the first time that he has driven a '98 Porsche 911GT1.

"It's really good. I expected a normal GT car like last year's one. But this is a real racing car, very close to formula style. It's nice to drive, with a lot of power. I am very optimistic for good results with the team. I'm very happy to be driving with Bartels - it shows the team believes in me. I am very happy - it's great !"

GT2 quotes

"For a change, it's all good. It's the best shape we've been in all year - I hope it continues into the race, "Martin Stretton, Konrad Motorsport

"It's going quite well. The conditions are tricky for everyone. The racing line was dry, but there is nowhere to escape. We're currently tenth - last year we usually qualified in twelfth place, and used the four hours to improve. This year, with the races being shorter, we have to push harder to reach the top ten." Bernhard Müller, Krauss Race Sports International.

"It's better if it's either wet or dry. In these conditions it is difficult to keep good timing. But everything is fine with the car," Max Cohen-Olivar , Seikel Motorsport.

"A wet race would be better for us. Our car is not so sophisticated, and the bad weather tends to equalise the field," Michel Ligonnet, Freisinger Motorsport.

Final Word

"It would be nice to go to Formula One as GT Champion," Ricardo Zonta, AMG Mercedes.

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Ricardo Zonta , David Brabham , Stéphane Ortelli , Michael Bartels , Cor Euser , Martin Stretton , Max Cohen-Olivar , Harald Becker , Michel Ligonnet , Bernhard Muller , Patrick Watts
Teams Sauber , DAMS , Team Zakspeed