Spa 24: Friday final qualifying report

After five and a half hours of track time on Thursday, the cars and drivers of the FIA GT Championship only had one session on Friday, the 45-minute third qualifying session. With the weather remaining dry and warm, the scene is now set for the...

After five and a half hours of track time on Thursday, the cars and drivers of the FIA GT Championship only had one session on Friday, the 45-minute third qualifying session. With the weather remaining dry and warm, the scene is now set for the 2003 edition of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa.

For the second year in a row, BMS Scuderia Italia captured pole position for the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, with Gollin succeeding Piccini on the front of the grid.

In N-GT, Ferrari also took the honours, with Team Maranello Concessionaires managing a fine one-two with their Modena cars.

FABRIZIO GOLLIN TAKES POLE AT SPA

With no-one able to improve on his time of 2:15.718, set during the first qualifying session, Fabrizio Gollin will start from pole position for tomorrow's running of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. The Italian driver therefore captured his second GT pole position, following Pergusa last year.

"This pole position is very important to me," said the driver of the nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello, "Spa is a very special track, so I am very happy. Yesterday I managed to find a clear lap, so it was perfect for me. My aim tomorrow is to win the race !" Gollin, who said he would start the race, will share the nr 22 car with his regular team-mate Luca Cappellari, as well as Lilian Bryner and Enzo Calderari. He will be followed by the nr 2 Konrad S7-R, which has twice started from pole this season, Walter Lechner Jr of Austria setting an excellent time of 2:16.654 in his first race in the car. Third place went to the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia car, driven this weekend by Bobbi, Biagi, Livio and Bonaldi.

N-GT POLE FOR DARREN TURNER

With only his team-mates in the nr 88 Team Maranello Concessionaires car able to close on the time set during yesterday's qualifying session, Darren Turner kept his pole position in the N-GT class, with a time of 2:22.691, despite not going out today. "The Spa test was my first time here. I can't believe I've been driving for nearly ten years and never been here before -- it's fantastic; I'm really enjoying it and I could do Eau Rouge all day long ! The track was very good in the first qualifying session, and it was probably the perfect time to do the lap we did. It was decided that I would go for qualifying and we just used one set of tyres and did the lap." Turner will share the nr 89 car with Jamie Davies and Guy Smith. Starting from 19th place on the overall grid, he will start just ahead of the team's second car, the nr 88 of Mullen, Burt and Kirkaldy. Third place went to the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS driven by Ortelli, Lieb and Dumas, Ortelli setting the fastest time for the car.

THIRD QUALIFYING SESSION

Although some teams were working on their race set-up, and others, like the nr 89 Ferrari 360 Modena, chose to not go out, there were nevertheless a number of improvements during the third session, which started at 12:30 on Friday. The nr 2 Konrad Saleen was one of the first to go faster, with Walter Lechner Jr setting a time of 2:16.654. The nr 18 Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R was also running well, with a lap of 2:18.149 knocking over two seconds off the car's previous best time. Towards the end of the session, the nr 88 Team Maranello

Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena improved from 5th to 2nd in N-GT, with Andrew Kirkaldy setting a time of 2:23.028, three tenths slower than the team's second car. The nr 15 Lister Storm also moved up to 2nd, displacing the nr 2 Konrad Saleen, but the car later had its fastest time removed due to failing a ride height test, and dropped back down to 5th. This brought the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello back up into third place. However, the car crashed heavily right at the end of the session, with Thomas Biagi at the wheel. With severe damage after the throttle apparently stayed on, the car, which has won all five races so far this season, is a doubtful starter for tomorrow's race.

After the end of the session, the Stewards examined the times per driver during the combined qualifying sessions, and considering the experience of the drivers concerned, the Stewards decided to authorise all drivers to take part in the race. The Lister nr 14, which was badly damaged during the second qualifying session, has been given permission to start from the back of the grid. The team has also been allowed to replace Bas Leinders with Dutch driver Tom Coronel, who is at the circuit for the FIA European Touring Car Championship, where he drives a Carly Motors BMW 320i. Coronel was a race-winner for Lister Storm Racing in 2001, when he drove with Jamie Campbell-Walter.

Fabrizio Gollin -- nr 22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello : "This pole position is very important to me because Spa is a very special track, and so I am very happy. Yesterday, I was lucky to find a clear lap, so it was perfect for me. We do not have a clear race strategy, as the race is too long. I am sure I am starting the race, but after that I don't know. Winning the race is more important to me than aiming for the points mid-race."

Andrea Piccini -- nr 15 Lister Storm : "Honestly, I think that I could have been quickest yesterday. We only had one set of tyres for today, which were new but not as good as yesterday's, so I am very pleased with the time. The car was very good, our only problem was with the traffic. I have three new team-mates this weekend, although David Sterckx knows the car well from last year, when he finished second. Both Gabriele Lancieri and Gavin Pickering are getting on well too."

Walter Lechner Jr -- nr 2 Konrad Saleen S7-R : " I sat in the car for the first time this week, and so I would like to thank Franz Konrad for giving me the opportunity to move up from the N-GT to the GT class. This is a 24 hour race, and where you start on the grid does not make much difference. This will be very good for me, because it's my first race in the GT class, and it will be good to start from the first row. The car has a lot more power than the Porsche, and it feels much faster !"

Darren Turner -- nr 89 TMC Ferrari 360 Modena : "The Spa test was my first time here. I can't believe I have been driving for over ten years and have never been here before. It's fantastic; I'm really enjoying it and could do Eau Rouge all day long ! The track was very good in the first qualifying session and it was probably the perfect time to do that lap. It could have been a bit better, but we had a few gearbox problems so we preferred to stop and give the team as much time as possible to work on the car. "

Andrew Kirkaldy -- nr 88 TMC Ferrari 360 Modena : " "I set the time right at the end of the session; the track was not as good as last night, so I am really happy to have been able to set a time like that; we went for the time because we missed out last night. Although I haven't raced with the team much this year I have done a fair amount of testing so jumping into the car isn't a problem, especially as I know Spa reasonably well."

Stephane Ortelli -- nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "This year is much tougher than it was last year, especially with TMC who are so very quick and making it tough for everybody at Spa. They are raising the level for all of us in our class. I am really pleased to be racing against such super drivers. If we want to repeat our result from 2002 this weekend, we first have to beat all the other N-GT drivers, but I do think our goal will be to get close to the GT drivers again."

Matteo Bobbi -- nr 23 BMS Ferrari 550 Maranello : "Thomas said that on his last lap, after Eau Route, he braked, but the gas stayed on and he crashed straight into the barriers. The mechanics are looking at the car at the moment. Thomas is OK, though, and that is the main thing."

David Jones -- nr 75 Eurotech Porsche 996 GT3-RS : "The car is going fine so far -- although there seems to be a lot of waiting around and we would prefer to get started with the race. The car has been going well, although we have been going carefully, not using the kerbs at all. We know the pace we want to set, we know we can all do it."

Luciano Burti -- nr 53 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena : "So far it is going quite well. This is a totally new experience for me, as I had never driven the car before yesterday. I am really enjoying it, both working with the team, and the atmosphere, which seems quite relaxed. I think the pressure is different than in Formula One, and you can really enjoy the driving."

Thomas Erdos -- nr 7 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen : "We had a gearbox problem, which meant we could not fix it before the third qualifying session. The car is freshly built for this race, and we had not time to shake it down, which we have done during the qualifying sessions, so we have had no chance to go for a time. But with a long event, we wanted the car to be right for the race, so we decided not to play the qualifying game. Our aim is to finish, and I think we can get a good result if we are sensible."

Robert Pergl -- nr 57 MENX Ferrari 360 Modena : "We didn't test here so it was difficult at the beginning, but we have a consistent team, with Jarek the fastest and the rest of us not too far behind. The car is well set-up and we are all within two seconds of each other. Jarek could have gone one or two seconds quicker, but I stopped him -- there was no point taking risks." Jarek Janis enjoyed his first night driving yesterday : "It was a really big adrenaline rush. It was most difficult to find the braking spot, as normally you take pointers visually. It was sometimes quite scary when faster cars came up behind you, with their lights filling your rear-view mirror, but I really liked it."

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Luciano Burti , Andrea Piccini , Fabrizio Gollin , Franz Konrad , Guy Smith , Darren Turner , Tom Coronel , Jamie Davies , Stéphane Ortelli , Matteo Bobbi , Gabriele Lancieri , Thomas Erdos , Gavin Pickering , Bas Leinders , Thomas Biagi , Andrew Kirkaldy , David Jones , David Sterckx , Enzo Calderari , Lilian Bryner , Robert Pergl , Jarek Janis