WEATHER: Overcast and cold with a threat of rain. The track was slightly damp at the beginning. LARINI BREAKS GIOVANARDI'S RUN OF POLE POSITIONS After four consecutive pole positions, Fabrizio Giovanardi handed his qualifying throne over to his...
Overcast and cold with a threat of rain. The track was slightly damp at the beginning.
LARINI BREAKS GIOVANARDI'S RUN OF POLE POSITIONS
After four consecutive pole positions, Fabrizio Giovanardi handed his qualifying throne over to his Gta Racing Team Nordauto team-mate Nicola Larini.
Things started to go wrong for Giovanardi at the start of the session, while Fredrik Ekblom (1:41.996) and then James Hanson (1:41.938) fought for the provisional pole. On his first flying lap Giovanardi spun off the track, his car stopped in the mud and it took time before a tractor pulled him out to rejoin the session. Meanwhile Larini set a new provisional pole position at 1:41.081, which was eight tenths of a second faster than the best time during practice. Hanson improved again, climbing to second with a time of 1:41.864, while Jörg Müller moved up to third with 1:41.965.
Halfway through the session, Volvo's Rickard Rydell became the first ETCC driver to break through the 1:41 barrier, ousting Larini from provisional pole, with an impressive time of 1:40.884,
Behind Rydell and Larini, the BMW drivers were fighting a tough battle to lead their pack. Jordi Gené, in the Ravaglia car, set the third time with 1:41.697, only to be immediately pushed down to fourth by Ekblom in the RBM 310i, who improved to 1:41.640. A few minutes later Gené lost another position to Dirk Müller who clocked two fast consecutive laps: 1:41.579 and 1:41.280.
1:41.173 was the time that enabled Giovanardi to recover a position within the top-three, with nine minutes of the session remaining.
For the first time today, Carly Motors-Team Isert's Peter Kox was seen up among the leaders, involved in a close fight with Hanson and the Müllers for the fourth position on the starting grid. With only four minutes left, Dirk Müller managed to move up to second with a time of 1:41.029, but immediately Larini improved both his time and position, claiming the pole for good with a lap of 1:40.321, half a second faster than Rydell. The other Müller, Jörg, tried his best to improve, but spoiled his new set of tyres running over the kerbs.
The final stages were breathtaking: Tom Ferrier set a brilliant 1:40.986 in the Dart Racing Alfa Romeo 156 Gta to claim the third position on the starting grid for tomorrow's first race. Then Giovanardi improved his time to 1:41.009; however, it was not good enough to break into the top-three, and the Championship leader will line up fourth on the grid. Just before the flag dropped, Rydell further improved to 1:40.417 but had to settle for second position, just 0.096 seconds behind Larini.
Three drivers did not take part in the qualifying session. Both the CiBiEmme Honda cars of Salvatore Tavano and Sandro Sardelli remained in the pits due to engine failure, as did Chris Goodwin's RJN Motorsport Nissan Primera. Electrical problems continued to plague Jens Edeman's Flash Engineering Volvo S60, which could not do any better than a disappointing 1:44.817, the slowest timed lap.
Luis Villamil set the 14th best time in the session at the wheel of his Scuderia Bigazzi Alfa Romeo 156 Gta, but he will be forced to start from the back of the grid, as the team changed the engine before this meeting, after previously changing the engine in Jarama.
NOTES AND QUOTES
Nicola Larini, Gta Racing Team Nordauto : "It is my first pole of the season and also my first time here ! I was not sure that I would be able to improve by half a second with my last set of tyres. But my engineer decided to put used tyres on, and I had the time to set pole. I am not far ahead of Rydell but I am still on pole ! We were faster this afternoon because this morning , there was no rubber on the track and we used tyres from the previous race. Giovanardi is normally on pole but he does not have a good feeling for this racetrack. It is therefore a good opportunity for me to recover some points in the Championship classification. I just hope that I will not receive team orders during the races, and that I will win them !"
Rickard Rydell, Volvo S60 Racing Team : "I did not expect Nicola Larini to go that much quicker and I did not expect to improve that much either. I was quite surprised to see 40.4 after having done a 40.8 earlier on. I thought it would be enough but then it was a tenth off. I am a little bit sad but front row is all right here, especially when the first four cars are front-wheel drive. We all know that the BMW cars are much quicker off the line. It is good to have front wheel drive cars behind you as well. We did everything right for the qualifying. We waited a little bit when it was drizzling, we first went out on old tyres and we put the new tyres on at the right moment. I had two good rounds and that is really as much as we can do. Even the second lap, the time dropped off so I got the best out of the tyres as well. I was quite pleased with the run. Front row means a lot as a lot of Volvo supporters will be here tomorrow. Hopefully that will help ! Also there are two races, so starting from the first row is good but there is a long way to go !"
Tom Ferrier, Dart Racing :"It was very close at the end as I was using my last set of tyres. Previously, it was always drizzling or there was traffic. At Silverstone, we qualified fourth but had two very bad races. So I am very happy to be at the front again ! It is a fast circuit, which I like to drive on. My car works well here too. We just made a few changes and moved forward and forward and forward ! At Silverstone, we were at the front but I made a mistake... So I want to stay at the front this time and get some points at least ! It would be very nice to be on the podium but Mr Giovanardi will want to come forward , as will a lot of other people ! We shall see..."
Fabrizio Giovanardi, Gta Racing Team Nordauto : "I made a mistake on my first set of tyres and it proved to be very penalising as I got stuck in the gravel trap. I lost a lot of time before they took me out of the mud. This time loss put a lot of pressure on me and I could not get the best out of the other sets of tyres. In the end, it was not that bad. It is better to be on the second row to be the last one stuck in the mud ! I was very lucky as when I went off, the car was not damaged at all. This is not my favourite track as it does not require a particular driving skill and when you try to exaggerate, you pay the price..."
Fredrik Ekblom, BMW Team Belgium : "It is very nice to be the first BMW as there are some extremely good teams and drivers running BMW cars ! We are not happy to be fifth on the grid but the race track was bad in these conditions. The plan is to make an excellent start with a white BMW going down the straight and then see what happens. But a lot of things can happen in the first corner. It is such a wide straight... I will give it my best ! But the Schnitzer guys are very close behind and for sure they have something up their sleeve at the moment !"
James Hanson, Volvo S60 Racing Team: "It was not bad at all, but the difference between me and Giovanardi, who is fourth, is one tenth of a second. And if I had managed to be one tenth quicker I should have been much happier. However, this is not the end of the world and I think it was more a case of being on the track at the right time with the right set of tyres. I timed my lap three minutes before the end of the session and all the drivers who had the chance to do another lap managed to improve and were placed ahead of me. Our car is quite good in the race, but if you look at the split times we are faster in the second part of the track that is all corners, while Alfa is faster in the first part where the braking points are^Å"
Peter Kox, Carly Motors ^Ö Team Isert : "We knew it would be a critical qualifying session because of the weather, which was up and down. Trying to do everything right, I started the session with used tyres, because the weather was not very promising. But it was quite OK, and I continued, and the track was drying too. When I decided to come in for new tyres, I rejoined when they were towing Giovanardi out of the mud, which put a lot of dirt on the track. It also started to rain a bit. Basically, I had no opportunity to make the most of this first set of new tyres. Because I had waited so long to move to new tyres, I had no time left to use the second set of new tyres when the track was totally dry."
Duncan Huisman, Carly Motors ^Ö Team Isert : "It is a difficult come-back for me here in the Championship, because the competition is much closer than last year. I haven't driven the car at all before coming here, and I need time to get used to it. It is totally different from my Super Production car from last year; you have to drive it more like a formula car, and this is a handicap for me, because I have never driven single-seaters. But I am very happy to be back, and I am working very hard to do at least three more races in the Championship : Spa, Donington and Estoril."
Jens Edman, Flash Engineering: "It was a difficult time today for Flash Engineering and me. We had a lot of technical problems. We had not enough power and lost a lot of speed on the straight. It has been a tough debut for me in the championship. The team is working hard to understand the problem. We will have a shake down tonight and then we will decide if we should change the engine or not. It will not make a big difference anyway, as I am already at the back of the grid."