ETCC: Barcelona: Friday notes

Eight drivers within three tenths. Two very close testing sessions opened the first race meeting of the 2003 FIA European Touring Car Championship in Barcelona. Twenty drivers took part in the sessions and Nicola Larini emerged as the fastest of...

Eight drivers within three tenths.

Two very close testing sessions opened the first race meeting of the 2003 FIA European Touring Car Championship in Barcelona. Twenty drivers took part in the sessions and Nicola Larini emerged as the fastest of them all; the Alfa Romeo driver beat BMW's Jorg Muller and Fabrizio Giovanardi by only 5 and 68 thousandths of a second respectively.

The level of competition in the Championship is so balanced that eight drivers were covered by only three tenths of a second, while five more set times within the same second. Independent driver Paolo Ruberti was impressive at the wheel of his Clever Cats Alfa Romeo 156 Gta, setting the fifth fastest time of the day, as was Andy Priaulx on his first season in the BMW Great Britain's car, who was sixth.

Rickard Rydell and Frank Diefenbacher proved that Volvo and SEAT are close to breaking into the top positions. However, Andre Couto could not complete the second session after his Pro Motorsport Honda Civic suffered from an engine problem.

For a number of drivers, such as Alessandro Balzan, Fabio Francia, Jan Nilsson, Duncan Huisman and Jordi Palomeras, this testing was the first real outing in their new cars. Sandro Sardelli could not set a time in the second ART Engineering Volvo, because of a suspension problem, while Dirk Muller met with brake problems in the second session.

As for Gabriele Tarquini, he missed most of the first session after he went off and rolled; his car was repaired in time for the second session, but today the team will replace the roof. From his part, Giovanardi had missed the whole first session because his engine refused to start due to an electrical bug. The FIA ETCC drivers will officially start the 2003 season on Saturday, with free practice and qualifying.

-fia-

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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Andy Priaulx , Dirk Müller , Jorg Muller , Frank Diefenbacher , Duncan Huisman , Andre Couto , Rickard Rydell , Paolo Ruberti , Alessandro Balzan , Gabriele Tarquini , Nicola Larini