Dubai: Thursday qualifying report

TWO IN A ROW FOR BOUCHUT Christophe Bouchut set pole position for Friday's tenth round of the 2005 FIA GT Championship, at the wheel of the nr 17 Russian Age Racing Aston Martin, running under the colours of Middle East Aston Martin as the Dubai...


Christophe Bouchut set pole position for Friday's tenth round of the 2005 FIA GT Championship, at the wheel of the nr 17 Russian Age Racing Aston Martin, running under the colours of Middle East Aston Martin as the Dubai GT Team. This was his tenth FIA GT pole position, his third of the season and his second consecutive pole after Zhuhai. The French driver set a lap of 1:55.215 in the first session, and led the second session with a fractionally slower time of 1:55.368.

"This is a great end to the season," Christophe said. "I would like to thank Rob Schirle and Cirkek Motorsport who did a great job this season, and also Middle East Aston Martin, for having given us the possibility to race here this weekend. We have a strong line up, so let's keep our fingers crossed for tomorrow !"

With his team-mate Stephane Ortelli having set the best time in this morning's free practice, the team has dominated three of the four sessions this weekend so far, boding well for tomorrow's race.

They will share the front row with the nr 6 GLPK Carsport Corvette, Mike Hezemans having set a great lap in the morning session. "We are on the pace, our set-up is good and the tyres are working very well here," Mike said. "The only problem is that the Aston Martin has two very good drivers--"

JMB Racing dominated the second row, with Philipp Peter placing the nr 16 ahead of the nr 15 of Bertolini and Wendlinger. They will be followed by the two Vitaphone Maserati MC 12s. The nr 11 Larbre Ferrari qualified seventh, after missing the second session, but an engine change means it will go to the back of the grid.


Marc Lieb continued to show why he and team-mate Mike Rockenfeller are the 2005 FIA GT2 Champions, claiming pole position for the nr 66 GruppeM Porsche in tomorrow's MotorCity GT 500 race. Despite carrying the super-maximum handicap weight of 75 kg, his lap of 2:01.802 placed him one tenth of a second ahead of his team-mate Emmanuel Collard, in the nr 88 car he shares with Tim Sugden.

"Since winning the Championship in Zhuhai, we will drive for ourselves and enjoy the last two races !" Marc explained. "The team has done a great job all season : the car improved constantly. For me, it has been a phenomenal year." As for Collard, he was pleased to have been so close to the time set by the nr 66 car. "We worked on the race set-up today, and we will have a good car. But the temperatures are much better this year : I can breathe ! Last year, I was cooking in the car !"

Third place was claimed by the JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, with a quick lap set late in the session by Chris Buncombe. For his first time in the car, the young British driver claimed his first top-three qualifying position in the FIA GT Championship. The nr 90 Spyker C8 Spyder was fourth, having been third for much of the session.


With one car in each the G2 and G3 classes, the Belgian Racing Vertigo Streiff set a time of 2:05.194 in the second qualifying session, Bas Leinders placing the nr 105 car between the Lammertink and Proton Competition cars for tomorrow's grid. This is Leinders' first time at the circuit, and the former F1 test driver was very impressed. "We are happy to be here as it is a small miracle to be racing with a small Belgian car in the Middle East. It is the first time I have been to this track, and it is very exciting. We need more circuits like this one !"

Newcomer to the Championship, Jonathan Sicart's Ferrari 360 Modena improved greatly between the first and second qualifying session, following a pump problem in the morning. The team is delighted to be in Dubai, after a full season in the Ferrari Challenge, and the drivers are all looking forward to tomorrow's race, where their main aim is to get to the end of the three hours. "This is a very good circuit, and I am happy to be racing in the FIA GT Championship for the first time," Jonathan said. He shares the car with his wife Carine, and with European Ferrari Challenge vice-Champion Ange Barde.


The first 45-minute qualifying session took place in the hottest part of the day. Nevertheless, the times quickly came down, pulverising the best times set in 2004.

The nr 16 JMB Racing Maserati MC 12 was the first to set provisional pole, with a time of 1:56.763. This remained the reference time until half-way through the session, with the nr 15 JMB and the nr 10 Vitaphone Maserati cars climbing up to second and third, and the nr 2 GPC Ferrari 575 fourth.

Mike Hezemans, in the nr 6 GLPK Carsport Corvette, then swept into the lead, with a magnificent time of 1:55.728. His lap sparked off a run of improvements, as the nr 10 Vitaphone Maserati set a time of 1:56.599 to take second, and its sister car, the nr 9 of Bartels and Scheider, took third.

But with twelve minutes remaining, the nr 17 Russian Age Racing Aston Martin put in a magnificent time of 1:55.215 on just its second lap out of the pits, giving Christophe Bouchut provisional pole. The car's third lap of 1:55.305 would still have been good enough for pole. The remaining ten minutes were relatively quieter, and although the Corvette came out of the pits for another attempt, the leaders did not change, the nr 17 remaining ahead of the Corvette and the four Maserati MC12s, the green and black Vitaphones leading the two blue JMB cars. The time was nine tenths of a second faster than the 2005 pole.

In GT2, the Spyker Squadron C8 and the nr 86 GPC Ferrari 360 fought for the lead early in the session, with times gradually coming down. However, when the GruppeM cars came out on the track, they soon moved into their usual dominant position. The nr 66 took provisional pole, Marc Lieb setting his best time with nine minutes remaining, with a lap of 2:01.802 - an improvement of more than a second over the 2004 N-GT pole of 2:02.946. Third place went to the Spyker, with the nr 86 JMB Ferrari and the nr 74 Ebimotors Porsche fourth and fifth.

23 cars set a qualifying time, the sole G3 competitor being outside the maximum qualifying time. The nr 18 Russian age Racing Ferrari ran for the first time this event, with Fomenko and Vasiliev qualifying twelfth. The nr 5 Konrad Saleen suffered oil pressure problems and did not take part. However, the main absentee was the nr 11 Larbre Competition Ferrari of Gardel and Lamy, which broke its engine in the second free practice session. The team received permission to change the engine, but the car will start from the back of tomorrow's grid, being joined at the back by the nr 5 Konrad Motorsport Saleen. The nr 3 car lost part of its times, due to failing to stop for scrutineering.


It had been widely predicted that the afternoon session would be the quicker, but although a number of cars slightly improved their times, the overall fastest time did not go down and there were few changes until the very end of the session.

For the first time, all 26 cars due to take part in tomorrow's race took part in a session, with the nr 11 and nr 5 cars having had their engines changed. The first car to improve on its morning time was the nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati MC 12, although it remained fourth overall; other cars such as the nr 3 Ferrari and the nr 90 Spyker also improved on their morning times, but did not significantly change the composition of the grid. The nr 11 came out after missing the morning session and gradually began to improve its times, although this would not affect their position at the rear of the grid.

However, in the final ten minutes, the times began to come down. The nr 15 Maserati MC 12 set a time of 1:56.349 to go third, only to be pushed back a spot shortly afterwards by the its sister car, the nr 16 Maserati in the hands of Philipp Peter. Lamy, at the wheel of the nr 11 Larbre Ferrari, improved to seventh overall. The nr 5 Konrad Saleen managed to complete four laps, with Ruberti placing the car ninth. Right at the end, Chris Buncombe, in the nr 89 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, set a lap of 2:03.575 to move up to third in GT2.


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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Emmanuel Collard , Stéphane Ortelli , Mike Hezemans , Christophe Bouchut , Marc Lieb , Ange Barde , Tim Sugden , Mike Rockenfeller , Chris Buncombe , Jonathan Sicart , Philipp Peter
Teams Larbre Competition