WEATHER: Sunny and warm, with a breeze and a dry track. BMW Drivers Win Two and Create A Gap in The Points Two Podiums and Some Laps in The Lead For SEAT The fight for the 2004 FIA European Touring Car Championship Drivers' title seems close...
WEATHER: Sunny and warm, with a breeze and a dry track.
BMW Drivers Win Two and Create A Gap in The Points
Two Podiums and Some Laps in The Lead For SEAT
The fight for the 2004 FIA European Touring Car Championship Drivers' title seems close to become a BMW family affair. In the 9th and 10th rounds of the series, the winning streak of the German Manufacturer was stretched to a sixth consecutive success. Now, three BMW drivers are leading the classification: Dirk Müller is first, Andy Priaulx second with a four-point gap, and Jörg Müller third, two further points behind. BMW has also increased its leading margin in the Manufacturers' Championship.
In the first race, Andy Priaulx took the best start and flew away, while Rickard Rydell, Dirk Müller and Antonio García had a tough fight for second position. Priaulx claimed his third race win of the season, while Rydell gave SEAT its first second place in the ETCC.
The second race was even tougher, with Jörg Müller taking an early leadership, and Frank Diefenbacher ousting him to lead four laps, before being passed by Dirk Müller and Priaulx.
A long queue of drivers outside the Stewards room testified quite how hot and incident-filled the race was. The most significant effect was a 30-second penalty which deprived Rydell of his fifth place in Race 2. Like in Hockenheim, the Alfa Romeo drivers remained off the podium, and Gabriele Tarquini, best-placed AutoDelta man in the points, failed to score in either race. The reigning champion is now twenty points from the leader.
Tom Coronel and his Carly Motors BMW struck back and won both the Independents' races, which were also very tough, with Luca Rangoni and Carl Rosenblad claiming a second position apiece, and Alessandro Balzan twice third.
These results remain provisional, pending the engine check on Dirk Müller's car.
RACE 1 REPORT
Priaulx sprints to take the lead at the start
D. Müller took a perfect start, squeezing between pole-sitter Rydell and Priaulx. The latter managed to keep the inside line and take the lead, with Rydell in his tow. D. Müller was third, chased by García, Gené, Giovanardi and Coronel. During the first lap, J. Müller overtook Tarquini for the eighth position; while Zwaart lost one wheel, came back to the pits for repairs and rejoined: "I was sandwiched between two other cars at the start, and one of my wheels was gone," he said.
Drive through to Gené, for jumping the start
On lap 2, Priaulx was able to increase his leading margin to 1.5 seconds, while Tarquini was closely chasing J. Müller. Balzan overtook Zanardi for the 15th position. Ruokonen retired with gearbox problems. On lap 3, the fight for third position became hotter still: García overtook D. Müller; Gené drove wide and lost five positions to Giovanardi, Coronel, J. Müller, Tarquini and Diefenbacher. The Spaniard's troubles were not over yet, as he was given a drive through penalty for a jump start.
Collision between Zanardi and D'Aste
On lap 7, Priaulx's leading margin steadied at 2.5 seconds, while García was closing in on Rydell. On lap 9, Gené's bad luck hit again and the Spaniard retired with a broken rim. On the 10th and last lap, Balzan overtook Tavano moving up to 13th, while Zanardi went off after a collision with D'Aste. Magnussen and Rosenblad were fighting hard for the 17th place, and overtook each other several times.
Priaulx crossed the line with a 3-second margin, scoring his third win of the season, from Rydell and García; D. Müller, Giovanardi, Coronel (winner of the Independents' race), J. Müller and Diefenbacher filled the other positions in the points. Tarquini finished ninth, just out of the point zone.
RACE 2 REPORT
Diefenbacher chases J. Müller closely
Ruokonen's Honda did not make the grid, further to its gearbox problem. Diefenbacher's SEAT sat on pole on the reverse grid, but J. Müller took the lead at the start. Behind him, Diefenbacher managed to stay in front of both Coronel on the outside and Giovanardi on the inside. During the first lap, Rangoni went off into the gravel after a collision with Mollekens. J. Müller seemed able to create a gap, while D. Müller, García, Giovanardi, Priaulx and Rydell were in tough fight for fourth position.
Rydell hits Tarquini, sending him off
On lap 2, Priaulx overtook García, moving up to sixth, while D. Müller was closely following Coronel. Rydell lost two positions, from eighth to tenth, when he was overtaken by Farfus and Tarquini. A few moments later the Swede missed the braking point and hit Tarquini, sending him into the gravel trap.
On lap 3, Diefenbacher passed J. Müller and jumped into the lead; Giovanardi overtook Coronel for fourth position. On lap 4, Coronel lost another position to Priaulx; Grunert retired with engine problems. The Müllers were on Diefenbacher's tail, the three leaders covered by half-a-second. On lap 5, Coronel slipped down to sixth, when García overtook him. D. Müller moved up to second, Priaulx passed Giovanardi for fourth. Magnussen retired after a clash with Bartyan, and Gené following a collision with Zanardi.
Rydell, Zanardi and Tavano demoted by the Stewards
On lap 6, D. Müller took command overtaking Diefenbacher. On lap 7, Farfus went off after a collision with García. On lap 8, Priaulx dived first inside J. Müller, and then Diefenbacher, climbing to second. On lap 9, Mollekens stole eighth position from Coronel. In vain Priaulx tried to get past D.
Müller, who won the race (his second success of the season), with a margin of two-tenths of a second. Diefenbacher finished third, meaning another podium for SEAT, from J. Müller, Rydell, Giovanardi, García and Coronel (once again first among the Independents) and Mollekens. Zanardi and Tavano were involved in a double collision.
After the race, the Stewards inflicted a 30-second time penalty on Rydell for hitting Tarquini (demoting him from fifth to 12th), and also to Zanardi and Tavano, for their last lap clash.