ETCC: Anderstorp: Saturday notes

WEATHER: Sunny with a dry track; the temperatures were cool in the early morning but got warmer for the rest of the day. FREE PRACTICE 1: LARINI IN A CLASS OF HIS OWN Nicola Larini set an astounding pace, drastically improving his own ...

WEATHER: Sunny with a dry track; the temperatures were cool in the early morning but got warmer for the rest of the day.

FREE PRACTICE 1: LARINI IN A CLASS OF HIS OWN

Nicola Larini set an astounding pace, drastically improving his own pole position time from last year by 0.4 seconds. The Alfa Romeo driver was clocked at 1:39.918 ten minutes into the session, and no one could even get close to his lap time. Local star Rickard Rydell set the second fastest time at the wheel of his ART Engineering Volvo S60, with a lap in 1:40.619, but he remained 0.7 seconds behind the Italian.

Larini's team-mate Roberto Colciago, who won the Swedish Touring Car Championship twice, in 2001 and 2002, was third fastest, with a time of 1:40.828, just ahead of the two Müllers, the best BMW drivers in the session. Dirk was classified fourth (1:40.948) and Jörg fifth (1:40.977). Another BMW man, Andy Priaulx set the sixth fastest time in 1:41.167, after recovering from an early puncture.

Carly Motors' Duncan Huisman emerged as the fastest of the Independent drivers, setting the ninth fastest time (1:41.513) at the wheel of his BMW 320i. Tomas Engström was the best of the Swedish guest drivers, placing 12th with a PRO Motorsport Honda Civic (1:41.796), while Frank Diefenbacher set the 14th fastest time (1:41.802), making him the quickest SEAT driver.

FREE PRACTICE 2: LARINI FROM RYDELL - AGAIN

In a slower, but much closer session, Nicola Larini and Rickard Rydell repeated their first and second positions. However, as the Italian driver was not able to reproduce his fabulous early morning lap time, the gap separating them was reduced to only 0.062 seconds. Larini's fastest time of the session was 1:40.616, while Rydell nearly matched his own first session time with a lap of 1:40.677. Current Championship leader Gabriele Tarquini set the third fastest time, 1:40.708, which was only 0.092 seconds behind that set by his team-mate Larini. Andy Priaulx also improved compared to the first session, going down to 1:40.938 (0.3 seconds behind), and emerging as the best of the BMW men.

At the end of the session, thirteen drivers were covered by only one second, with the SEAT drivers making drastic improvements. SEAT Sport Frank Diefenbacher improved by half-a-second to be classified ninth; his best lap in 1:41.358 meant a gap of 0.7 seconds behind Larini. Johan Stureson was also impressive at the wheel of a Podium SEAT Sport Sweden car, setting a time of 1:41.678 that gave him the 13th position. Best of the Independent drivers was Scuderia Bigazzi's Alessandro Balzan, seventh with a time of 1:41.171.

QUALIFYING: POLE FOR LARINI AFTER AN ALFA ROMEO 1-2-3

Nicola Larini confirmed his status as the fastest ETCC driver in Anderstorp, claiming his second consecutive pole position at the circuit. This was also his third pole position of the year, after Magny-Cours and Donington Park. The Italian driver massively improved on last year's fastest time by 1.3 seconds. His Autodelta team-mates Gabriele Tarquini and Roberto Colciago completed the Alfa Romeo supremacy, being placed second and third respectively. Tarquini's best time of 1:39.144 was only 0.8 seconds slower than Larini's pole position time of 1:39.084.

Again, the qualifying times showed how tight the competition is in the Championship, with all the 22 drivers covered by only 2.6 seconds. The biggest gap was nearly four tenths between the second and third placed drivers, while the remaining positions were even closer.

Behind the three Alfa Romeo men, Jörg Müller qualified the best of the BMW cars in fourth position with a time of 1:39.590, just ahead of another BMW driver, Antonio García (1:39.654). Rickard Rydell and his Volvo S60, second in both the free practice sessions, were classified sixth with a lap in 1:39.684. A one-second improvement over their morning times proved that Anderstorp is a track that suits the S60.

Seventh on the grid for tomorrow's Race One will be Duncan Huisman, in his Carly Motors BMW 320i; with a best lap in 1:39.706, the Dutchman emerged as the fastest of the drivers taking part in the Independents Trophy. Dirk Müller and Andy Priaulx, the two other contenders in the fight for the European title, were a bit disappointed by the results today, having qualified in ninth and tenth positions respectively, although the gaps separating them from the top of the grid are very narrow.

Frank Diefenbacher was the fastest of the SEAT drivers. The Spanish cars showed a lack of speed on the straight and Diefenbacher qualified his Toledo Cupra in 14th position, immediately ahead of Jordi Gené's sister car and the two Podium SEAT Sport Sweden Toledo Cupras of Johan Stureson and Niklas Karlsson. The Swedish drivers were separated by only four thousandths of a second. However Gené will lose his position and will be forced to start from the back of the grid, because the team changed his engine before qualifying. The two other Swedish guest drivers, Tomas Engström (PRO Motorsport Honda Civic) and Mattias Andersson (Scuderia Bigazzi Alfa Romeo 156) were classified 19th and 22nd in the qualifying session.

QUALIFYING NOTES AND QUOTES

Nicola LARINI, Alfa Romeo Autodelta, 1st: "This was a great day for me, as I was constantly the fastest on the track. I think we did a good job. We found a perfect balance for the car, which was particularly good for the qualifying session. It also seems that my car is not suffering from excessive tyre consumption, and this will surely be a great help also in the races. I'm still the only driver fighting for the championship who has not had any race wins, and tomorrow I will try to fill this gap. Obviously having three Alfa cars at the top of the grid is a good result, and hopefully this will help us to keep the BMW drivers behind at the start. We cannot physically leave our doors open--, but it won't be easy for them to overtake all the three of us."

Gabriele TARQUINI, Alfa Romeo Autodelta, 2nd: "I'm happy. A second position is a very good result, considering that I never saw this track before and that I am carrying 30-kg ballast in my car. I like the track and I was impressed by the speed we reach while cornering in the banked turns. This was a good start to the weekend, now I have to focus on the races. It's difficult to say what my strategy tomorrow. I will definitely try to score good points for the Championship, but I feel confident. Despite the ballast I know I can achieve good results."

Roberto COLCIAGO, Alfa Romeo Autodelta, 3rd: "Everyone was expecting me to be quick here, because I won twice the Swedish Touring Car Championship. However, I have never raced in Anderstorp before. Although I should say that I feel good here in Sweden. I'm sure that tomorrow a lot of spectators will come to the track, because Touring Cars are very popular here. Some of them will come to see me and to support me, which is a great motivation for a racing driver."

Jörg MÜLLER, BMW Team Deutschland, 4th: "I'm scared by the Alfa Romeos' performance. I expected them to be fastest in qualifying, but it seems that they don't have their usual problems with the front tyres wearing down. I was particularly impressed by Tarquini; he was so fast with the ballast. I expect we will have two very spectacular races. We need to see whether it will be possible to beat the Alfas. In any case I have to score, I can't afford to finish any of the races out of the points."

Rickard RYDELL, ART Engineering, 6th: "Unfortunately we did not manage to confirm the second position I obtained in the two free practice sessions. However I am happy. A sixth position in qualifying with the car we have, which is not backed by a Manufacturer, is a great achievement. We still have the problem with the top speed on the straight, but the Volvo is so good in cornering that I'm confident it will be good tomorrow. This is my home track and I will try my best to obtain good results; I will push to the maximum in both races."

Duncan HUISMAN, Carly Motors, 7th: "The seventh position is my best qualifying result this year. I think it's a great result for a private team. To tell the truth, I could have done a bit better, maybe three tenths more, but I made a couple of mistakes in my fastest lap. Probably I was pushing too much, and the car understeered while entering into the last corner. Now we'll change a few small things for tomorrow, and I'm very confident for the races."

Dirk MÜLLER, BMW Team Deutschland, 9th: "I made two mistakes during qualifying. It was a shame, because the car was OK, and I know I could have achieved a better lap time. In the end I'm not unhappy, because the times were so close. I'm looking forward to scoring points in both races, although I'm afraid it will be very difficult to stay ahead of Tarquini."

Andy PRIAULX, BMW Team Great Britain, 10th: "It was pretty bad. I was surprised, because in free practice I was good on old tyres. I expected much more from the qualifying; let's say a position around the sixth place. Something went wrong, and the car could not take the most out of the new tyres. We are trying to figure out why. Now it will be tough and I will be forced to push hard from the start to recover."

Frank DIEFENBACHER, SEAT Sport, 14th: "I was good in free practice, then I expected more from qualifying. I tried to change something to go faster on new tyres, but it did not work. I will try to push in the first race, but it won't be easy to recover, because it seems that on this track it's simpler to defend the position than to overtake."

Johan STURESON, Podium SEAT Sport Sweden, 16th: "This has not been a lucky debut for me in the ETCC. I went off the track in the early stages of qualifying, losing time to get back to the pit and rejoin. This is a new experience for me, and I have to get used to the tyres (different from those used in the Swedish Championship) and the tyre-warmers. I just pushed too much too early. The team is here to learn, so we are satisfied and we are looking forward to tomorrow's races."

Tomas ENGSTRÖM, PRO Motorsport, 19th: "We had very bad luck. Just before the start of qualifying we discovered that a front damper was broken on my car. The team changed it, but there was not enough time to make a new set up. For this reason my car was totally out of balance. Otherwise I think I could compete for a top-ten position. But I feel confident, because we have good top speed on the straight, and I would like to recover in the first race and go for points in the second. I think it's possible."

-fia-

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Series General
Drivers Andy Priaulx , Antonio Garcia , Jorg Muller , Frank Diefenbacher , Duncan Huisman , Rickard Rydell , Alessandro Balzan , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Mattias Andersson , Nicola Larini , Tomas Engstrom , Roberto Colciago