WEATHER: Sunny, with very hot temperatures and a dry track. QUALIFYING: PRIAULX CLAIMS FIRST POLE, RANGONI IS SECOND As the fight for the FIA European Touring Car Championship title is getting hotter, Andy Priaulx hit the mark in today's ...
WEATHER: Sunny, with very hot temperatures and a dry track.
QUALIFYING: PRIAULX CLAIMS FIRST POLE, RANGONI IS SECOND
As the fight for the FIA European Touring Car Championship title is getting hotter, Andy Priaulx hit the mark in today's qualifying session, claiming his first pole position of the season. A result that may have a great influence on tomorrow's races and also on the whole championship, considering that his rivals and fellow BMW drivers Dirk and Jorg Muller -- struggling with set-up problems - will be starting from the fifth row of the grid, with a bunch of Alfa Romeo and SEAT cars between them and the pole-man.
In a very hot afternoon under the desert sun, 22 drivers took part in the last qualifying session of the season. James Thompson claimed an early provisional pole with a lap in 2:13.100, but he was immediately ousted by his AutoDelta team-mate Augusto Farfus, who was clocked at 2:12.810. The top positions did not change for the following ten minutes until, halfway through the session, Fabrizio Giovanardi set a new provisional pole position of 2:12.618, while Gabriele Tarquini posted the third-fastest time in 2:12.853, completing an Alfa Romeo quartet (Giovanardi -- Farfus -- Tarquini -- Thompson) on top of the time list.
This did not last for long, as Priaulx timed an amazing 2:11.688, claiming the pole position for good. For the rest of the session no one else was able to break the 2:12 barrier. With eight minutes to go Rickard Rydell improved to 2:12.584, for a provisional second position on the grid. But a few minutes later he was demoted to sixth when all the four Alfa Romeo men managed to improve: Tarquini (2nd), Thompson (3rd), Farfus (4th) and Giovanardi (5th).
The positions seemed frozen, when Luca Rangoni created a big surprise just under the chequered flag. The Oregon Team's man completed a perfect lap in 2:12.194, claiming the second position on the starting grid -- the best result for an Independent driver in the current season.
PRACTICE 1: TARQUINI AND THOMPSON ON TOP
The track was really dusty for the very first session of the day, and drivers had to-- sweep the sand away from the racing lines before daring to set quick laps.
Halfway through the session, James Thompson was the first driver to go under the 1:13 mark (2:12.754); however his time was immediately beaten by his team-mate Gabriele Tarquini (2:12.574). Tarquini's time marked a new track record for the touring cars, beating Priaulx's 2:12.617 set yesterday during the FIA testing.
This morning Priaulx set the third fastest time, with a lap in 2:13.167, beating third Alfa Romeo man August Farfus by only 4 tousandths of a second. Like yesterday afternoon, Frank Diefenbacher emerged as SEAT's fastest driver, ranking fifth (2:13.189), while Michele Bartyan topped again the Independent's class posting the 10th fastest time overall.
Due to the dirty asphalt, was very easy to slip off the track limits; and a few drivers received warnings from the Stewards.
PRACTICE 2: SEVENTEEN DRIVERS IN NINE TENTHS
Session by session the drivers were getting to know the track, however the temperature rise between the two sessions (from 30C air and 35C track to 37 and 50) prevented them from setting faster lap times.
Once again, Gabriele Tarquini was the fastest of the pack, with a lap of 2:13.230. He managed to beat Andy Priaulx (2:13.398) by 0.168 and James Thompson (2:13.407) by 0.177.
The session was incredibly close, with 17 drivers covered by only 9 tenths of a second, and the top nine in less then half-a-second -- despite the lap time being over two minutes!
The SEAT drivers were also impressive, with Jordi Gene and Frank Diefenbacher setting the fifth and sixth fastest laps. This proved that the Alfa Romeo, BMW and SEAT works cars are equally competitive on this new race track. Only the Mullers are still struggling with their cars' set-up. The best of the Independents was Salvatore Tavano, sixth in the overall results.
During the session, Alessandro Balzan lost the rear of his JAS Motorsport Honda Civic and crashed into the armco barriers; however the front of the car was not seriously damaged. GR Asia's Simon Harrison did not take part in the session, his Honda Civic suffering from a transmission oil leak.