ETCC: Anderstorp: Race report

WEATHER: Sunny and windy, with a dry track. TWO WINS FOR ALFA ROMEO, BUT JORG MÃœLLER TAKES CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD Alfa Romeo won both the 15th and 16th rounds of the FIA European Touring Car Championship in Anderstorp, but BMW's Jorg Muller is the...

WEATHER: Sunny and windy, with a dry track.

TWO WINS FOR ALFA ROMEO, BUT JORG MÜLLER TAKES CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD

Alfa Romeo won both the 15th and 16th rounds of the FIA European Touring Car Championship in Anderstorp, but BMW's Jorg Muller is the new leader of the Drivers Championship.

Autodelta man Gabriele Tarquini, who had been in the lead since the third meeting of the season in Pergusa, was demoted from first to fourth after he did not score this weekend. Tarquini went off the track on lap 1, while he was leading the first race, and was forced to miss the second race as well, as his engine was damaged by the gravel he collected.

Luckily for Alfa Romeo, his Autodelta team-mates Roberto Colciago and Nicola Larini claimed one win apiece in front of a crowd of 22,000. However, completing both races in fourth position, a wise Jorg Muller managed to score enough points to jump into the Championship lead.

With three meetings and six rounds to go, the fight for the European crown is still very close, as the five contenders are separated by only eight points. Jorg Muller has a two-point margin ahead of Larini, while Andy Priaulx, who was classified second in the second race, is third, six points from the lead. Despite his double nil today, Tarquini is still fourth, with the same eight-point gap as Dirk Muller, who finished the first race in third, but retired in the second. In the Manufacturers' Championship, BMW is still leading Alfa Romeo by 38 points.

The other podium positions today, went to Spanish youngster Antonio Garcia (second in Race 1) and to local hero Rickard Rydell (third in Race 2), who claimed the second podium of the season for Volvo.

Carly Motors' driver Duncan Huisman won both the Independents' races and managed to build up a solid twenty-point margin in the classification; Paolo Ruberti and Tom Coronel are lying in second and third places respectively, separated by four points.

WARM UP: RYDELL SQUEEZES BETWEEN THE ALFAS

After dominating the first day, Nicola Larini also topped the warm up with a lap in 1:40.548. His team-mate Roberto Colciago was classified second with a time of 1:40.944, with Rickard Rydell in third. The Swedish driver clocked a time of 1:41.045 and managed to split the Alfa Romeo trio, relegating Gabriele Tarquini to fourth place.

Dirk Muller was the fastest BMW driver, fifth with a time of 1:41.302, while Johan Stureson emerged as the best SEAT driver; his fastest lap in 1:41.790 gave him the 13th position.

Sandro Sardelli had a very troublesome session, spinning three times at the wheel of his Volvo S60 and finally stopping in a gravel trap. "Something was wrong in the set up," he said. "I had too much oversteer, and I was suddenly losing the back of my car while cornering."

RACE 1: COLCIAGO SAVES ALFA AS TARQUINI GOES OFF

The three Alfa Romeo cars of Tarquini, Larini and Colciago, took the lead at the start; Giovanardi drove wide at the first corner and dropped back. At the end of the long straight, Tarquini missed the braking point and went off into the gravel trap; Larini, who was closely following him, was caught by surprise and nearly went off as well. With his team-mates in trouble, Colciago inherited the lead. He was chased by Jorg Muller, Garcia, Rydell and Huisman. Larini completed the first lap in ninth position, while Tarquini rejoined at the very back.

At the end of the second lap, Tarquini pulled into the pits and retired, his engine damaged by the gravel. Dirk Muller overtook Priaulx for sixth. On lap 3 Garcia stole second place from Jorg Muller, who was chased by Rydell, Huisman, Dirk Muller and Priaulx. Larini moved into eighth, overtaking Ruberti. On lap 4 Dirk Muller won another position, passing Huisman for fourth. Colciago was able to pull away, while Larini managed to latch onto the group of six drivers fighting for the second position.

On lap 6 Larini overtook Priaulx for seventh. On lap 7 Dirk Muller overtook Rydell for fourth. The two Mullers were chasing Garcia closely, and on lap 10 Jorg tried a move to pass the Spaniard, who shut the door; Dirk, who was immediately behind, could not avoid a clash with his team-mate's car. However, they both managed to stay on the track. In the meantime, Huisman got past Rydell for fifth position. The Swedish driver lost another place to Larini on the following lap.

On lap 12 Dirk claimed the third position overtaking Jorg. Colciago won the race, his second this year, with a comfortable lead. Garcia defended the second position and finished ahead of Dirk and Jorg Muller. Huisman was classified fifth and won the Independents' race, with Larini in sixth, Rydell in seventh and Priaulx in eighth.

RACE 2: LARINI TAKES HIS FIRST WIN AND MOVES TO SECOND IN THE POINTS

Tarquini could not take the start, after his engine was damaged in the first race. Priaulx was on pole on the reverse grid and took the lead at the start, followed by Rydell. Jorg Muller, Huisman and Larini were fighting hard for the third position. They entered the long straight side-by-side and Larini managed to squeeze between the two BMWs, out-braking them at the North corner.

During the first lap, Colciago overtook Garcia for eighth position, while Giovanardi passed Huisman, climbing to sixth. The fight between Giovanardi and Huisman became heated, and their cars clashed more than once. At the beginning of the second lap, their duel involved Colciago, who was trying to pass both on the outside line. The collision was almost unavoidable, Colciago got the worst of it and spun off into the gravel trap. On lap 2 Larini moved up to second, overtaking Rydell; Huisman and Giovanardi continued swapping paints and positions. On lap 3 Dirk Muller dropped down from fifth to eighth, having missed the braking point at the end of the straight. The fight between Giovanardi and Huisman extended to Garcia and Ruberti, and the latter finished in the gravel trap, his car badly damaged.

Larini was stuck on the tail of Priaulx's car, while Jorg Muller was putting pressure on Rydell. On lap 6 Dirk Muller went off because of a puncture to the front right, a few moments later he came back to the pits and retired. Another puncture forced also Karlsson out of the race.

On lap 8 Larini jumped into the lead, overtaking Priaulx at the end of the straight. On lap 10 Garcia passed Giovanardi for fifth. Another group of drivers was fighting for the ninth position: Engstrom, Coronel, Diefenbacher, Gene, Couto, Stureson and Andersson. On lap 11 Couto and Stureson clashed; the Swedish driver, who had managed to break into the top ten by lap 4, went off into the gravel trap.

Showing great determination, Larini claimed his first win of the season. Priaulx was classified second, despite a final attack from Rydell. Jorg Muller obtained another fourth position, which was enough for him to take the Championship lead. Garcia and Giovanardi crossed the line in fifth and sixth positions, ahead of Huisman, who took a second Independents Trophy win. Balzan scored the final point for the eighth position, while Engstrom won the final rush for a much-contested ninth place.

RACE NOTES AND QUOTES

Jorg MÜLLER, BMW Team Deutschland, 4th in Race 1, 4th in Race 2: "Obviously it's nice to be the new leader of the Championship. However it is not going to be easy to win. It will be a very big fight until the last race of the season. Today my car was not on the pace. I managed to complete one quick lap in qualifying, but I was not competitive in the races. During the first race I had a power steering failure with three laps to go; it was very difficult to get to the end, but I was forced to let Dirk pass by. In the second race I concentrated on finishing in the points, without taking risks. But it's clear that if we want to win this title, we have to work hard and test. We need a more competitive car, because the Alfa Romeos have improved in reliability and consistency. Even on a track like Anderstorp, where we did not expect them to be so good."

Gabriele TARQUINI, Alfa Romeo Autodelta, Dnf in Race 1, Dns in Race 2: "I only have to blame myself for what happened today. I took a very good start in the first race. I was leading, with my team-mates guarding my back. It was the ideal situation. But I was too optimistic at the first braking. I braked in the usual way, but the track was dirty, because of the rubber lost by the tyres from the GT cars, and my tyres were still cold. In the end I missed the braking point and went off. I collected a lot of gravel, which damaged the engine, and I could not take the start in the second race. I have paid dearly for this mistake, because this was a great occasion to increase my leadership. This racetrack suited our cars, Colciago and Larini have proved it."

Nicola LARINI, Alfa Romeo Autodelta, 6th in Race 1, 1st in Race 2: "It was a great weekend for me. In the first race, I missed the braking point when Tarquini did. I was following him so closely I could not avoid doing the same. Colciago was on my right. I could not close the corner, so I decided to go on the outside and I broke my front spoiler. I then had too much understeer and fought hard to get from eighth to sixth and to collect some good points. In the second race, I overtook Jorg Muller and Duncan Huisman by going in between them. I thought it was the only possibility and had to try it. I still can't believe that it worked out. There was some very good fighting today. I'm also very pleased, because now I'm second in the Championship, two points from the lead. But it will be hard, and I think that the winner will be crowned only after the final round in Monza."

Roberto COLCIAGO, Alfa Romeo Autodelta, 1st in Race 1, Dnf in Race 2: : "I am very glad to have won here in Sweden. The start of the race was good for me but not for my team-mates who had problems at the end of the straight. We all arrived there on cold tyres, and everyone braked late to keep his position, because it is very difficult to overtake here. My team-mates missed the braking point and went onto the gravel. I found myself in the lead, and my car was very good. I did not have to push a lot. I just had to keep the tyres in good condition. It was easier here than in the other races. Unfortunately the second race was a completely different story. At the start Giovanardi passed me. I then tried to overtake Garcia and finally passed him. I overtook both of them on the start/finish line but then I got a hit from the back and went off."

Antonio GARCÍA, BMW Team Italy-Spain, 2nd in Race 1, 5th in Race 2: "I had a very good start. After the first lap, I was third. I tried to overtake Jorg Muller and pushed a lot. I then had a problem with the second gear and in the last corner before the pit straight, I made a lot of mistakes. All the others recovered and I just tried to save my position. In the second race, I had a very good start but I had a problem with Huisman. Giovanardi overtook me and then I had a fight with Colciago, and the front group pulled away. I finally managed to overtake Giovanardi but could not recover and catch the front group."

Dirk MÜLLER, BMW Team Deutschland, 3rd in Race 1, Dnf in Race 2: "We touched, with Jorg during the first race. I was on the inside, he was coming back. He had to lift, I was on the throttle and we touched. But it was nothing serious... The first race was really good. I was surprised to be able to overtake so many cars, coming back from ninth to third. Jorg had a problem and he was losing oil; it got very slippery behind him. So I passed him. I was very lucky to be on the podium. I started the second race, thinking it would be easier. I was lacking concentration. There was a big gap behind us and I thought I could easily be fifth. But then I was surprised by the braking in front of me and I locked the front right. I damaged my tyre and had to let pass two cars. I was hoping my tyre would not explode, which it eventually did... And this cost me at least four points in the Championship."

Andy PRIAULX, BMW Team Great Britain, 8th in Race 1, 2nd in Race 2: "When I was leading the second race I knew that it was only a matter of time before Nicola passed me. He was very fast and every time I was looking in my rear view mirror, his car was bigger. I just wanted to try and make the pass as smooth as possible. I came back in the Championship classification, and I'm currently third, but you have got to take each race as it comes. And Oschersleben will be a good circuit for us."

Rickard RYDELL, ART Engineering, 7th in Race 1, 3rd in Race 2: "We do not have the same resources as the official factory teams. So far, we only did one test session. So we are very happy to be on the podium again. Our set up was not perfect in the first race. I had a bit of understeering and I lost pace. Then, for the second race, we only modified a few things and the car changed completely. The cooperation between Flash Engineering and ART Engineering worked perfectly. I am very happy to have been able to drive Jan Nilsson's car here and to hand it back to him without a scratch".

Duncan HUISMAN, Carly Motors, 5th in Race 1; 7th in Race 2: "The first race was perfect and the car was really good. But due to a lack of budget, I could not start on new tyres. So I was happy with the fifth position. In the second race, I started on new tyres and wanted to be on the podium, but then I made contact with Giovanardi and Ruberti who both hit me several times. Nevertheless, we had a good weekend."

-etcc-

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Series General
Drivers Antonio Garcia , Dirk Müller , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Duncan Huisman , Rickard Rydell , Gabriele Tarquini , Nicola Larini , Roberto Colciago