ETCC: Donington: Qualifying summary

CORTHALS REPLACES EKBLOM IN THE RBM BMW In a last minute change, young Belgian driver Pierre-Yves Corthals will replace Fredrik Ekblom at the wheel of the BMW Team Belgium RBM-run BMW 320i. Ekblom, who is currently sixth in the Drivers' ...

CORTHALS REPLACES EKBLOM IN THE RBM BMW
In a last minute change, young Belgian driver Pierre-Yves Corthals will replace Fredrik Ekblom at the wheel of the BMW Team Belgium RBM-run BMW 320i.

Ekblom, who is currently sixth in the Drivers' Championship, has been forced to miss the meeting because of medical reasons and the Stewards allowed the team to replace him due to force majeure.

Corthals already took part in the FIA ETCC meeting in Spa, at the wheel of another BMW 320i run by Carly Motors. On that occasion the Belgian driver achieved a very good result, finishing sixth in Race One and claiming pole position on the reverse grid for Race Two. Corthals was then involved in a first lap crash and retired.

IAIN INGLIS: YOUNGEST DRIVER IN THE ETCC
Iain Inglis, from Scotland, has claimed the record of being the youngest driver in the FIA European Touring Car Championship from 20-year-old Englishman Tom Ferrier.

Inglis, who was born on 21st December 1983 in Dunfermline, will be at the wheel of the AGS Motorsport Alfa Romeo 156 Gta, previously driven by Paolo Ruberti and Domenico Guagliardo. This will be the first time the 18-year old from Scotland will be driving a proper racing car, following previous experience in karting (he was 2000 British champion in the ICE class) and Historic Touring Car club races.

Twenty-one cars passed scrutineering and took part in the free practice sessions.

WEATHER : Overcast and dry, with a cold wind.

PRACTICE 1: BMW AND ALFA ROMEO DRIVERS FILL TOP POSITIONS

Tom Coronel set the fastest time at the end of a very balanced session. The Dutch driver, who is back in the Championship after missing the previous meeting in Pergusa, was timed at 1:42.663 in his Carly Motors BMW 320i.

BMW and Alfa Romeo drivers improved their times and positions lap after lap and at the end of the session four BMW cars and three Alfa occupied the top seven positions. Rickard Rydell's Volvo S60 was the best of the rest in eighth. The gaps between the fastest drivers were very narrow: only 0.7 seconds separated Jordi Gené's tenth position from Coronel.

Jörg Müller was classified second, 0.048 seconds behind Coronel, with Nicola Larini third with a gap of 0.225 seconds and Dirk Müller fourth, 0.277 behind the Dutchman. Current Championship leader Fabrizio Giovanardi set the sixth time, between Roberto Colciago and Coronel's team-mate Duncan Huisman.

Gabriele Tarquini and Sandro Sardelli only completed four and three laps respectively. On his return to the FIA ETCC, Tarquini was forced to stop because of a gearbox failure, while Sardelli spun several times due to a trivial suspension problem.

PRACTICE 2: TARQUINI STRIKES AGAIN

His first session gearbox problems solved, Gabriele Tarquini unveiled his FIA ETCC ambitions by setting the fastest time in the second session, which was also the fastest practice time overall. The 1994 British Touring Car Champion topped the list from the beginning of the session, improving his time on four occasions: 1:43.321, 1:42.965, 1:42.916 and finally 1:42.640.

The Carly Motors drivers once more proved their speed : Coronel was second, only 0.072 behind Tarquini, with Huisman in third at 0.258. Dirk Müller set the fourth fastest time, with Rydell drastically improving his time and position, finishing fifth with, 0.436 behind. Once more, the top drivers were all packed within a few tenths of a second, with only 0.6 separating ninth-placed Eric Cayrolle from fastest man Tarquini.

Fabrizio De Simone did not set a significant time, as he only covered a couple of laps to shake down a new engine, which had been fitted in his Ravaglia Motorsport BMW 320i to replace the one which blew up during the first practice. Regardless of his qualifying time, the engine change means that De Simone will line up at the back of the grid for tomorrow's Race One.

The session was stopped 2:20 before the end and did not resume. The reason for the red flag was a crash for Iain Inglis, when the young Scottish driver went off at the Old Hairpin. He badly damaged his AGS Motorsport Alfa Romeo 156 Gta but escaped unscathed.

QUALIFYING: FIRST POLE POSITION FOR DIRK MÜLLER

At the end of a breathtaking qualifying session, BMW Team Deutschland's Dirk Müller claimed his first ETCC pole position, the second for BMW so far this season. The German driver set a time of 1:41.430 only three minutes before the end of the session, ousting current Championship leader Fabrizio Giovanardi.

The session started at a frantic pace, with Giovanardi and Roberto Colciago setting very fast times on their first laps: Giovanardi claimed a provisional pole at 1:42.402, with Colciago second at 1:42.387. It did not take much time for Dirk Müller to prove he was also aiming for the pole; Dirk was timed at 1:42.202, good enough for a provisional leadership.

Halfway through the session the classification was shaken-up by Gabriele Tarquini and Colciago, who improved to 1:41.994 and 1:42.150 respectively. Tarquini's time set a new provisional pole position, while Colciago's time was good enough for a provisional second place. A few seconds later, Giovanardi was clocked at 1:42.120, squeezing into second place between Tarquini and Colciago for an impressive Alfa 1-2-3.

However, there were fireworks in the final minutes of the session. First of all Tarquini again improved, with a lap of 1:41.753, increasing his pole position margin to 0.3 seconds ahead of Giovanardi. The Championship leader was then pushed down to third by Rickard Rydell, who clocked an excellent time of 1:41.792, only 0.039 seconds behind Tarquini. But Giovanardi promptly reacted, claiming a new provisional pole position with a time of 1:41.742, while Colciago recovered the third position with a time of 1:41.761. With only three minutes left in the session, there were three Alfa drivers at the top, with Giovanardi on pole, Tarquini second and Colciago third.

Finally, Dirk Müller's magical lap claimed him the pole position; the fifth change of pole sitter in the session.

Other changes occurred after the end of the session. Following reports from the marshals, Giovanardi and Tarquini had their best times disallowed for straight-cutting the chicane, which demoted them to fourth and sixth place on the grid respectively, with Colciago inheriting the second position, Rydell the third and Jörg Müller the fifth.

Other drivers who had their fastest times disallowed for the same reason were Tommy Rustad, Eric Cayrolle and Robert Collard.

Tom Ferrier did not take part at all in the session, due to a gearbox failure on his Dart Racing Alfa Romeo 156 Gta. Despite failing to qualify, he will be allowed to start tomorrow's race.

BMW Team Spain suffered another technical failure, when Jordi Gené blew his engine, just like his team-mate Fabrizio De Simone did in the second free practice session this morning.

NOTES AND QUOTES

Dirk Müller, BMW Team Deutschland: ""I had a good first lap during Qualifying, but then I had lots of problems with the traffic, and I got a bit nervous as I dropped down to sixth or seventh. I really needed a good lap on my last run, and I got it. I really need to thank my team as they have worked very hard. My strategy for tomorrow must be to get a good start, and to be first at the first corner. But I'm sure I'll have a good fight with Roberto, and hope we will have a safe, clean race. The last few races have been great fun, and I hope I can manage to win at least one of the two races."

Roberto Colciago, Gta Racing Team Nordauto: "Really, I don't feel as if I should be second. It was very close, but I was fourth and it is rather unexpected to be here. The car is really good. This is my first time in Donington, and it is not an easy track. I have not yet learned it completely, and I made some small mistakes on my qualifying lap, so it was good to be 4th. In the race tomorrow, I am sure that the other Alfa Romeo drivers will not be far behind me, and it should be a really good race."

Rickard Rydell, Volvo S60 Racing Team: "I am very happy to be third today as the times were extremely close, with the first seven within five hundredths of a second. I am very much at home here at Donington after all my years with the British Touring Car Championship. The car was handling really well. This might be my best chance for a win this season. I will try really hard tomorrow, and hope to keep ahead of the others, but we will have to see what happens."

Nicola Larini, Gta Racing Team Nordauto: "I'm very disappointed by my eighth position in qualifying. This affected my morale and, I'm afraid, will also definitely compromise my title hopes. The car was running well in the morning, but I noticed there was something wrong with the differential and I reported it to the team. Unfortunately we made a wrong decision, things turned worse and this cost me a lot."

Iain Inglis, AGS Motorsport: "I was starting to push a bit after I was very cautious during the first practice session. Suddenly at the Old Hairpin the car went away from me; I realised it was about to spin and natural instinct pushed me to correct it. I oversteered, but I went onto the grass where I finally lost it, crashing into the barriers. They checked me in the medical room withount finding anything wrong; I can't say the same for the car. The front was very badly damaged and that's it for the weekend^Å But I want to be back in the championship. I hope they will give me another chance and I promise I will be wiser then.!"

-fia-

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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Dirk Müller , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Rob Collard , Eric Cayrolle , Duncan Huisman , Rickard Rydell , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Nicola Larini , Roberto Colciago , Pierre-Yves Corthals , Tom Ferrier , Tommy Rustad