Watkins Glen, NY - First Qualifying Practice Session

1999 FIA GT Championship Round 9 : watkins Glen, NY (USA) First Qualifying Practice Session Weather Cool and bright Belloc sets provisional pole ORECA Chrysler Viper driver Jean-Philippe Belloc took provisional pole position for Sunday's...

1999 FIA GT Championship Round 9 : watkins Glen, NY (USA) First Qualifying Practice Session

Weather Cool and bright

Belloc sets provisional pole ORECA Chrysler Viper driver Jean-Philippe Belloc took provisional pole position for Sunday's ninth round of the FIA GT Championship at Watkins Glen. The Frenchman's time in the opening 45-minute session of 1m47.576s was just under a tenth faster than the nearest opposition, Xavier Pompidou in the first of the customer Vipers. "The car was good, but not perfect. It will be better tomorrow," said Belloc, who drives with American David Donohue this weekend. "My only problem was finding a clear lap, because there is a big difference in speed between us and the slower cars. I can go quicker in the second session this afternoon, but only if I get a clear lap."

Pompidou second for Chamberlain Pompidou was happy with the runner-up spot in session in only his second event in a Viper, but the Frenchman reckoned he could have gone quicker. "I was blocked by a slower car on my fast lap. I had to go around the outside. I'm sure I could do a 1m46s lap if I had a clean lap," said Pompidou, who shares the Chamberlain-entered car with Vincent Vosse and Michel Ligonnet. "I'm not sure we can go quicker this afternoon. I've kept a few laps on my tyres, but the cold air this morning was very good for the engine. The second Chamberlain car was seventh fastest in Christian Gläsel's hands. He and co-driver Christian Vann are saving their new tyres for this afternoon.

Best Porsche : Freisinger Third fastest and best Porsche was Wolfgang Kaufmann in the Freisinger team's lead 911 GT2. "I'm happy to be best Porsche, but not happy with my time," said the German, who shares the car with sportscar legend Bob Wollek this weekend. "I did two warm-up laps on my set of qualifiers [Dunlops], but had a problem with a slow Porsche on my fast lap. I couldn't take the racing line. I'm sure I could have gone half a second quicker." Kaufmann said he would try to improve his time on race tyres this afternoon.

Champions fourth 1999 FIA GT Championship leaders Olivier Beretta and Karl Wendlinger were only fourth quickest in the number one ORECA Viper. The car was delayed by two pitstops to bleed the brakes following a change of master cylinder overnight. Beretta then had only two flying laps before the chequered flag, the second of which was interrupted by yellow flags.

Belmondo fifth and ninth An impressive fifth quickest was local driver Steve Pfeffer in the second Belmondo team Chrysler Viper. The squad's lead car, which won at Homestead last weekend, again encounter problems. Team newboy Luca Drudi had his first laps in the car, but the right rear shock absorber mounting sheared before Belmondo could go for a time.

Konrad with engine problems Mike Hezemans and Franz Konrad were disappointed to be only sixth fastest in the best of the latter's Porsche 911 GT2s. Konrad set the time before Hezemans encountered engine problems when he tried to go for a fast lap on qualifying tyres. "The engine started to misfire again," said the Dutchman, "and we don't know what it is." The problem is the same one that forced the car's retirement at Homestead last weekend. Six of the Porsche six-cylinder engine's 12 spark plugs are working only intermittently.

Schumacher leading the N-GT field The Schumacher Racing Porsche 911 GT2 took up its customary position at the head of the invited American cars. John O'Steen's best lap put the car eighth fastest, nearly three seconds clear of the nearest opposition. Driver-owner Larry Schumacher said : "Our only problem was getting the tyres up to temperature." Second best in class was the Reiser-Callas Porsche 911 RSR of David Murry. "The car is great, all we need is a couple of turbos - remember this is a GT3 car," said Murry, who shares with team boss Joel Reiser. "We're second in class, which is where we should be. I'm happy to be halfway up the field ahead of a lot of turbo cars."

Rundown All 21 cars went out in this morning's session. The number nine Haberthur Porsche of Luca Cappellari and Patrick Vuillaume ran for the first time this weekend after its engine problems were sorted out. The SSZ Stradales has been repaired after its crash in yesterday's second free practice session. Driver Mark Knepper said : "The guys worked until they were thrown out of the garages last night and started early again this morning. The car's not doing bad, but we've got a bit of a problem with the brakes." Both Michael Jacobs Ford Mustang Cobra Rs went out on the track. The second Konrad Porsche of Charlie Slater and Diez Villarroel managed only one slow lap in the hands of the latter before engine problems intervened. The car underwent an engine change overnight, but the team is worried that the wiring loom, for which there is no spare, may have been damaged beyond immediate repair.

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Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Franz Konrad , Karl Wendlinger , David Murry , Vincent Vosse , David Donohue , Steve Pfeffer , Jean-Philippe Belloc , Mike Hezemans , Luca Drudi , Wolfgang Kaufmann , Christian Vann , Olivier Beretta , Michael Jacobs , Luca Cappellari , Michel Ligonnet , Christian Glasel