WEATHER: Sunny, with a dry track TARQUINI AND JORG MÃœLLER TAKE WINS, VOLVO AND HONDA SCORE POINTS The 20,000 spectators who gathered to Donington for the LG Super Racing Weekends, enjoyed not only a bright sunshine, but also two ...
WEATHER: Sunny, with a dry track
TARQUINI AND JORG MÜLLER TAKE WINS, VOLVO AND HONDA SCORE POINTS
The 20,000 spectators who gathered to Donington for the LG Super Racing Weekends, enjoyed not only a bright sunshine, but also two breathtaking races. The ninth and tenth rounds of the FIA European Touring Car Championship were absolutely spectacular.
Gabriele Tarquini and his Autodelta Alfa Romeo 156 Gta won the first race from Nicola Larini and Dirk Muller. Jorg Muller, who was forced to start from the last spot of the grid after his crash in Saturday's first practice, recovered up to fourth place, after an exciting battle with Rickard Rydell, who drove the ART Engineering Volvo S60 into the points for the first time in the season, and Roberto Colciago.
Jorg Muller's show continued in the second race, after a first-corner collision eliminated Tarquini and Giovanardi. The German driver won, from Carly Motors' independent driver Duncan Huisman and the impressive Rydell. Paolo Ruberti, who had won the Independents class in Race 1, lost third position two hundred metres from the end, due to a broken driveshaft. Andre Couto and Salvatore Tavano finished sixth and seventh, their PRO Motorsport Honda Civic Type-Rs breaking into the points for the first time.
Following these results, the fight for the European crown got even closer. Tarquini is still in the lead, but Jorg Muller has reduced his margin to only three points. Three other drivers, Dirk Muller, Andy Priaulx and Larini, are joint in third position, ten points behind the leader.
WARM UP: HIS CAR REPAIRED, JORG MÜLLER IS FASTEST
The Schnitzer Motorsport mechanics worked all night to repair Jorg Muller's car after yesterday morning's crash. And they did an excellent job, as the German driver was able to set the fastest time in the warm-up with a lap in 1:41.752. "The team was absolutely great. The car is not 100 per cent, but they rebuilt it in the best possible way. Now I have a mixed feeling: I want to push hard to recover, but I don't want to crash again," Muller declared. Roberto Colciago was the fastest Alfa Romeo driver, and was second with a lap in 1:41.762, only one hundredth behind Muller. Rickard Rydell confirmed the ART Engineering Volvo S60's progress, setting the third fastest time at 1:42.161. BMW Team Italy-Spain team mates Fabrizio Giovanardi and Antonio Garcia were fourth and fifth, with Clever Cats R&M's Paolo Ruberti in sixth, best of the independents. Championship leader Gabriele Tarquini covered a few laps and set the seventh time, while his team-mate, pole sitter Nicola Larini met with gearbox problems. "Nothing serious; it will be fixed for the race," he said.
RACE 1: TARQUINI WINS AS BMW DRIVERS FIGHT EACH OTHER
Pole sitter Nicola Larini's front wheels spun at the start, as Dirk Muller and Fabrizio Giovanardi sprinted past the Alfa Romeo cars from the second row. The two BMW drivers collided twice door-to-door before the first corner, and Gabriele Tarquini managed to pass Giovanardi, catching up with the tail of Dirk Muller's car. At the Fogarty's chicane, Tarquini outbraked Muller and took the lead. In the following Melbourne hairpin, Muller lost two more positions to Larini and Giovanardi, with the latter repeatedly knocking on Larini's rear bumper.
On lap 2 Tarquini and Larini managed to pull away, while BMW drivers were fighting over the third position. Dirk Muller was chasing Giovanardi, while he was trying to defend himself from Antonio Garcia. Muller and Garcia clashed at the Old Hairpin and the Spaniard spun; he failed by inches to collect his team-mate Giovanardi, but couldn't avoid hitting Fabio Francia's Alfa, which was in seventh position. The crash was hard and both cars went off with massive damage.
On lap 3 Andy Priaulx came back to the pits with a puncture to the front left, while the Stewards inflicted a drive through penalty to Giovanardi, due to his contact with Larini. Tom Coronel retired with a broken alternator. Jorg Muller, starting from the last spot of the grid, had recovered to the 11th position. On lap 4 Sardelli retired with gearbox problems.
On lap 5, Tarquini was comfortably leading, with Larini a few tenths behind; Giovanardi was still defending his third position from Dirk Muller, while Rickard Rydell was quickly closing on to Roberto Colciago. In seventh position overall, Paolo Ruberti was leading the Independents class. Jorg Muller had just moved up to eighth, and was closely followed by Duncan Huisman, Alessandro Balzan and Salvatore Tavano.
On lap 6, Giovanardi came in for his drive through penalty and slipped back. This promoted Dirk Muller to third, but the German driver was being seriously threatened by Colciago and Rydell. On lap 8 Jorg Muller overtook Ruberti for sixth, and in the following lap he moved up to fifth passing Rydell in the Chicane. Balzan lost ninth position when he received a drive through penalty for cutting the chicane.
On lap 11 Jorg Muller gained another position, claiming fourth place from Colciago; Ruberti, Huisman, Couto and Jordi Gene were in a close fight for seventh. On lap 12, Eric Cayrolle went wide at the Old Hairpin and lost 12th place to Frank Diefenbacher and Giovanardi.
Tarquini scored his third win of the season, and Larini finished second with a very narrow margin ahead of Dirk Muller. Jorg Muller was classified fourth, and Rydell managed to grab fifth place from Colciago and score his and ART Engineering's first points so far. Ruberti and Huisman claimed the last points finishing seventh and eighth; they also were classified first and second in the Independents Trophy.
RACE 2: JORG MÜLLER CLAIMS AN UNEXPECTED WIN
Garcia and Francia did not make the grid following their Race 1 accident. Huisman was on pole on the reversed grid. Jorg Muller took the best start and managed to jump into the lead from Huisman and Ruberti. Behind them, Tarquini and Giovanardi collided at Redgate; the first spun off in the gravel trap and lost two laps before rejoining. Giovanardi continued, but a damaged front fender handicapped his car's performances.
As Jorg Muller pulled away, Ruberti chased Huisman for second place. A train of five drivers was just behind: Rydell, Dirk Muller, Larini, Colciago and Couto. On lap 2, Dirk Muller overtook Rydell for fourth. As the fight intensified, Colciago cut the chicane and jumped from seventh to fifth. On lap 4 Dirk Muller went off into the gravel at Coppice due to a puncture, and pitted to change the tyre.
On lap 6, Colciago was awarded a drive-through penalty for his cut. Priaulx overtook Couto for sixth. The gaps among the top three drivers, Jorg Muller, Huisman and Ruberti, stretched out lap after lap. Larini was defending his fourth position from Rydell, Priaulx and Couto, while Tavano was quickly closing on them.
On lap 10, Rydell overtook Larini at the Melbourne Hairpin and moved up to fourth. The final lap turned to drama for Ruberti, who lost his third place when his driveshaft collapsed at the last-but-one corner. Jorg Muller claimed his third win of the season, totally unexpected after he had demolished his car on Saturday. Huisman was classified second and won the Independents race. Rydell claimed third place, which was a brilliant and well deserved result for him and the ART Engineering, although it came as a result of Ruberti's bad luck. Larini and Priaulx were classified fourth and fifth, while the PRO Motorsport duo, Couto-Tavano managed to score the first points for the Scottish team. Ruberti's car toiled across the line in eighth position, and the Italian driver scored the final point.
RACE NOTES AND QUOTES
Gabriele TARQUINI, Alfa Romeo Autodelta, 1st in Race 1, 17th in Race 2: "Although I'm still leading the Championship, I am not really happy, as I lost a good opportunity to score more points in the second race. My car was really good, even with 30 kg of ballast, and this enabled me to win the first race. In the second race, I was alone in the middle of the first corner and someone hit me. I do not know who it was. I think he missed the braking point or something like that."
Jorg MÜLLER, BMW Team Deutschland, 4th in Race 1, 1st in Race 2: "This result is thanks to my little baby, my car, to which I gave a new name after my Saturday crash: 'Banana Express'... The good thing is that I'm now going to fight for the Championship. I just did ten laps in the warm up this morning and I was on the pace immediately. That was lucky as we did not have to change a lot on the car for the race. It was brilliant, thanks to my mechanics, who did a fantastic job. They did not have even an hour of sleep last night... Thanks a lot ! With the penalty weight in force, we are not going to have a Champion until two races before the end of the season. The leader is going to change at the next few races. Even if Gabriele [Tarquini] is in the lead now, I think he is going to lose it sooner or later. If it's not me, isomeone else, without weight, is going to get into the lead."
Nicola LARINI, Alfa Romeo Autodelta, 2nd in Race 1, 4th in Race 2: "In the first race, Giovanardi hit me at the back and my rear wing was damaged. Thereafter, my car was undriveable. I still managed to finish second. In the second race, I took a lot of risks as my team-mate, Colciago, went straight through the chicane and a stone broke my left window. I tried to push three or four laps but the wind was coming in and I could not see very well anymore. I continued, but in the end I lost concentration and that's when Rydell overtook me. Thirteen points is not so much but at least I have improved my position in the Championship."
Duncan HUISMAN, Carly Motors, 9th in Race 1; 2nd in Race 2: "Already on our way to Donington, I said to Carly that I had a good feeling. I thought there was a chance of a podium. In the second free practice, I was in third position but in qualifying, something changed and I was 13th. The first race was a good race, although my car was not handling like I wanted it to. Eighth was OK and it meant the pole for the second race. I had a good start, but Jorg'[Muller]'s was better and he overtook me before the chicane. I could do my own race as Ruberti was a bit too far away to put pressure on me. It is a great result for our team."
Rickard RYDELL, ART Engineering, 5th in Race 1, 3rd in Race 2: "This result is like a win for us. We really needed this. The team has worked very hard of course. We were struggling a lot in the beginning of the season, but now everything is coming together. We had an update on the engine but it is still lacking of straight line speed. However, it is very consistent in the races. In the first race, I managed to pass Colciago and in the second race, Larini. So, we can compete with the works Alfas which is good for sure!"
Dirk MÜLLER, BMW Team Deutschland, 3rd in Race 1, 16th in Race 2: ""The big winner is our team this weekend. The Schnitzer guys worked all night long, without any sleep, on Jorg's car and they managed to rebuild it so that he could come back from the back of the grid to win the race. I think we were the best team of the weekend. As for me, I was really unlucky. In the second race, after they changed my rear tyres, I was able to set the best lap times. I was really confident at the beginning of the race that I could be on the podium, at least second, as my car was perfect. In the third lap, I felt a slow puncture which got worse and worse. I was happy not to lose the car. I could have achieved much better in the first race. For many laps, I was so much quicker than Giovanardi, but I couldn't pass him until he came in for the drive through penalty. Then it was too late to chase the Alfa men."
Andre COUTO, PRO Motorsport, 12th in Race 1, 6th in Race 2: "I'm so happy for me and the team. We worked very well in the weekend and the alliance between JAS Motorsport and PRO Motorsport was absolutely effective. For the first time so far this season we managed to be competitive for the whole weekend. During the races I was even a bit surprised when I found myself fighting with some of the best cars in the field. I could not overtake Larini and Rydell in the second race, but I was able to keep up with their pace. I could have taken more risks to improve my position, but I decided to settle and secure the team their first points in the season."
Salvatore TAVANO, PRO Motorsport, 9th in Race 1, 7th in Race 2: "It was a very positive weekend for me on my return to the championship. I think we have worked very well to exploit the car's potential. Now the team begins to get some results. I'm very happy that I was able to contribute to getting both cars in the points. "
Paolo RUBERTI, Clever Cats R&M Team, 7th in Race 1, 8th in Race 2: "I don't know what to say, because I'm really sad about losing the third place two corners from the end of the second race. In the first race I had set-up problems, but I managed to finish seventh and win the Independents class after a tough fight with Huisman. I changed the height at the back of the car between the races, and the handling improved a lot. I took a good start and I was trying to keep the BMW's pace. It was the most I could do. It was a wonderful race until the last lap, when a driveshaft broke and I could not do anything but slow down and try to make to the end. I was classified eighth, still in the points, but it's not much of a consolation."