Imola: Saturday report

Scorching heat and scorching times around the Imola circuit have been the main feature of today's qualifying sessions for the fourth round of the 2005 FIA GT Championship. For the first time, a Corvette will start from pole, Mike Hezemans having...

Scorching heat and scorching times around the Imola circuit have been the main feature of today's qualifying sessions for the fourth round of the 2005 FIA GT Championship. For the first time, a Corvette will start from pole, Mike Hezemans having set the best time in the GLPK Carsport car. He was joined by a Ferrari and a Maserati in the top three, and, with the top eleven cars qualifying within 1.7 seconds, tomorrow's race promises to be fascinating. In GT2, the GruppeM battle has swung in favour of the nr 88 car, with Emmanuel Collard taking his second pole of the season


A Corvette will start from pole position in the FIA GT Championship for the very first time in tomorrow's fourth round, around the challenging Imola circuit. Mike Hezemans set a time of 1:45.835 towards the end of the first qualifying session, to claim his eighth FIA GT pole, and the first since 2003. Mike, from the Netherlands, is one of the most regular competitors in the Championship, and has competed every year, driving a record-breaking nine different cars, ranging from the Lotus and Bitter in the old GT1 class, through the Porsche, Lister and Marcos, before finally taking his first wins in a Chrysler Viper between 2000 and 2003. Last year he drove a Ferrari 575 M Maranello in the early part of the year, before returning this season with the exciting and competitive Corvette. "It's nice to be on pole, as the last one was a long time ago," Mike said. "This track really suits us, as you don't need so much top speed here. And Pirelli won here last year, so everything is working out. The lap was not easy, though, as I set it late in the session, and there was a lot of traffic. For the race tomorrow, we hope the car will not break down, and we can go the full distance. It's difficult to say whether we can win, but I think we can aim for a podium."

Qualifying was extremely close and exciting, with the top eight cars within 1.1 seconds, and four different makes in the top six. The nr 6 GLPK Carsport Corvette will start alongside the nr 11 Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello, with Pedro Lamy setting a time nearly three tenths slower than the Corvette. Third place went to the nr 16 JMB Maserati MC 12, with Philipp Peter lapping in a time of 1:46.227. The top three cars were among the lightest in the category, with only the Larbre car carrying 10 kg. They were followed by the nr 9 Vitaphone Maserati, putting in an amazing performance considering the car has 80kg penalty weight. The Russian Age Racing Ferrari was fifth, despite a continuing electrical problem this weekend, while the nr 7 Graham Nash Saleen was sixth - its best qualifying of the season.


GruppeM Racing has claimed all pole positions so far this season, with three going to the nr 88 car and just one - Silverstone - to the nr 66 Porsche. Emmanuel Collard, already on pole in Magny-Cours, repeated the feat today. "We had a really good set-up and we are happy with our race pace too," the Frenchman said afterwards, having set a time of 1:51.082. The drivers of the nr 66 car are very much aware of their 50 kg penalty weight - 35 kg more than the nr 88 car, and set a time around 7 tenths slower than their team-mates. The GruppeM cars qualified ahead of the nr 74 Ebimotors Porsche , with Luigi Moccia setting a time of 1:53.171, and the Lammertink Racing Porsche driven by Wolfgang Kaufmann and Luca Moro.


The Balfe Motorsport Mosler was the fastest G2 car today, setting a time of 1:52.572, and being placed just behind the two GruppeM Porsches on the grid. "It's gone really well," Shaun Balfe said afterwards. "It's my first visit to the circuit and I was surprised but pleased with my time during the first free practice session and through qualifying."We've got some new parts on the car for this weekend which is helping the braking and a few other areas. We are still trying to narrow the gap to the GruppeM cars, but, I don't think they've got to worry just yet."

The second G2 car, the Vertigo Streiff, was penalised for using the wrong tyres in the first qualifying session, and had to set its time in the second, slower 45 minutes. However, as the car actually improved in the afternoon - one of the few cars to do so - the Vertigo's position remains the same : 20th on the grid, and just behind the Ebimotors car. Top Eight GT1


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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Emmanuel Collard , Pedro Lamy , Mike Hezemans , Wolfgang Kaufmann , Luigi Moccia , Shaun Balfe , Luca Moro , Philipp Peter
Teams Larbre Competition