A great drive from Dani Clos to take pole in Imola
Yesterday's disappointing qualifying at Imola saw both of the Racing Engineering drivers starting from the back of the grid with Dani Clos starting 20th and Nathanakl Berthon 25th. Despite the seeming impossibility of achieving a good result in today's 35 lap race neither the Racing Engineering team nor its drivers refused to give up the fight.
Both drivers made good starts, concentrating on not making any mistakes and gaining places were possible and by the start of the fourth lap Clos was up to 16th with Berthon not far behind in 23rd. Clos soon found himself in a hard battle with Gonzalez, who was 0.2 seconds ahead, and Varhaug who was a second behind. All the teams elected to make early mandatory pitstops beginning on lap seven and Racing Engineering called Clos in on lap eight and Berthon on the following lap. Following the usual very efficient work from the Spanish team's pit crew, both drivers gained places and by lap eleven, as all the pit stops were completed, Clos was up to 11th just 0.4 seconds behind Leimer whilst Berthon was 15th some 2.2 seconds down on Turvey.
Over the next few laps Berthon closed the gap to Turvey but it was all to no avail when the young Frenchman retired on lap fifteen following contact when the car he was overtaking closed the door on him, nevertheless it was another very promising drive. Meanwhile Clos continued to make excellent progress and by lap seventeen the Racing Engineering driver was up to 9th less than a second behind Leimer and 4.5 seconds ahead of Fauzy. Lap twenty saw Clos gain another place to move up to 8th, still chasing Leimer with Fauzy just behind the battling pair.
The remaining 15 laps saw Clos continuing to harass Leimer whilst making sure he didn't lose a place to Fauzy who had closed up on the two cars ahead but the young Spaniard kept his cool and at the chequered flag he claimed 8th place following a marvellous drive.
Today's great result, a tribute both to the driving of Dani Clos and the hard work by the Racing Engineering team to recover from yesterday's disappointment will see Clos start tomorrow's race from pole position and he must be considered a favourite for victory. Sadly Nathanakl Berthon will once again have to start from the back of the grid but the pace he showed in today's race together with the example set by his teammate means that a good result is still possible for the fighting Frenchman.
Dani Clos: This has been a positive race for the team and me after yesterday, which was a bit unexpected. Today our main target was to gather the maximum information possible on the car. From the very beginning we had a good pace and I was able to overtake many cars. We also had a good strategy that worked out well and allowed me to gain further positions. I am happy for the team and tomorrow we have the opportunity to work more with the car and obtain more data and information.
Nathanakl Berthon: I am quite disappointed as it was a really good race until I tried to overtake another driver, who closed the door on me. I had a good start, overtook several cars and gained more positions during and after the pit stop when I pushed really hard. I was one of the fastest on the track at that moment. But my last intent to pass another car did not work out, closing the door on me, the impact sent me off the track and I had to retire. It's a real pity as I think I could have finished very close to Dani as my car was really fast.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting director: We had a positive race considering the starting positions of both our drivers. We adapted the strategy to the situation and were able to allow both drivers to gain many positions during the pit stops. It's a pity about Nat, who was making up further ground after the pit stop, but an impact with another car while overtaking forced him to retire from the race. Dani did a good job and finished in 8th position. We will start from pole position tomorrow, so the race win has to be our objective.
-source: racing engineering