Zolder: Qualifying report

Kovalainen Hangs Onto Controversial Pole; Tiago Monteiro Bags The Other Zolder 24th april 2004 -- A yellow flag controversy juggled the order in qualifying for the World Series by Nissan at Zolder, but Heikki Kovalainen came away with a ...

Kovalainen Hangs Onto Controversial Pole; Tiago Monteiro Bags The Other

Zolder 24th april 2004 -- A yellow flag controversy juggled the order in qualifying for the World Series by Nissan at Zolder, but Heikki Kovalainen came away with a pole position in spite of having his best lap time disallowed. The Finn's next-best lap was the best part of a second slower, but since some of his rivals also lost their times he was able to hang onto his pole for the second race at the Belgian track.

Yellow flags flew midway through a session that was ultimately interrupted by no less than three stoppages. A spate of fast times were set during these few minutes, and more than half the field ended up getting penalised for them.

"It was quite a messy session," said Kovalainen. "I could have gone quicker but my best lap on new tyres got interrupted by the red. But anyway, it turned out that the tyres were still good enough for a quick lap!"

Kovalainen (Pons Racing) remained on top although his best time was erased, but Narain Karthikeyan (RC Motorsport) and Enrique Bernoldi (GD Racing) lost second and fourth positions respectively. Tristan Gommendy benefited to go from third to second in his Saulnier Racing entry, whilst Carlin Motorsport's Tiago Monteiro bumped up to third on the revised grid.

Kovalainen will also line up on the front row for the first race, after a first session that was thankfully clear of any halts. He'll start behind Portugal's Monteiro, who set a great lap late in the session. Bernoldi will get away third, ahead of Karthikeyan.

"It feels great," said Monteiro. "It's the first pole for me and Carlin together, and I didn't know the track. The car handled perfectly this morning, and I am happy for myself and the team. But the second session was messy!"

Most drivers and teams were unhappy about the second-session stoppages, claiming that their best opportunities were compromised by the red flags. Two of the reds came about because of shunts, one for Ryo Fukuda and one for a shaken Gommendy. The second flag (preceded by the yellow that caused all the trouble) was also seen by some as being unnecessary as it was only for a car stopped alongside the track on a straight section of road.

The day's big story came when Ralph Firman decided not to continue the weekend with the Gabord Reyco squad. The British driver left the circuit this morning, simply telling the team that he didn't feel happy in the car. He had finished the previous day's practice sessions in 15th place overall.

SPOILS SHARED IN WORLD SERIES LIGHTS

The World Series Lights field may be small, but pole position was a hard-fought affair in both qualifying sessions today. Milos Pavlovic (Vergani Formula) took pole for the first race tomorrow, then Simon Abadie (Epsilon Sport) gathered the honour for the second race.

Pavlovic just beat Abadie in the first session, by just over a tenth of a second. Matteo Pellegrino (Vergani Formula) was third. That half-hour was marked by accidents for both drivers in the Saulnier Racing team, Harold Primat and Mathieu Lahaye. Each car sustained enough damage to keep them out of the second qualifying.

That meant that the track was left to just six drivers in the latter session, but they still managed to get in each other's way frequently enough. Through all the gamesmanship came Abadie, with Spaniard Celso Miguez (Meycom Sport) claiming second position, ahead of Pavlovic.

-rpm-

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About this article
Series Formula V8 3.5
Drivers Enrique Bernoldi , Narain Karthikeyan , Ryo Fukuda , Tiago Monteiro , Heikki Kovalainen , Ralph Firman , Tristan Gommendy , Milos Pavlovic , Matthieu Lahaye
Teams Carlin