ETCC: Estoril round ten qualifying report

FIA Super Production Championship Round 10 Qualifying Session Report Weather As for the Super Touring sessions, the track was wet for the first free practice session and drying during the second. In qualifying the track remained dry despite a ...

FIA Super Production Championship Round 10 Qualifying Session Report

As for the Super Touring sessions, the track was wet for the first free practice session and drying during the second. In qualifying the track remained dry despite a threat of rain.

22 drivers took to the track, including six new cars : four from the Netherlands and two from Great Britain. Tom Coronel and 2001 Dutch Touring Car champion Sandor van Es drove the Carly Motorsport nr 38 and 39 BMW 320i cars ; Frans Verschuur and Donald Molenaar were in the Renault Dealer Team Holland nr 29 and 30 Renault Clio RS cars ; Briton Alan Blencowe and Swede Benny Larsson were in the GA Racing nr 36 and 37 Alfa Romeo 156 cars. 52 year-old Larsson is making his racing comeback after 16 years!

Paolo Ruberti was the quickest driver in the wet, with the morning's best time being set in the second session by Duncan Huisman (1:54.011) ahead of Gianni Morbidelli and Peter Kox. Stefano Gabellini spun in the second session, slightly damaging his CiBiEmme BMW 320i against the barriers. The session was red-flagged a few minutes before the planned finish time when Patrick Beliën spun into the gravel with his Carly Motorsport BMW 320i. Alan Blencowe did not appear in the second session after blowing the engine of his GA Racing Alfa 156 in the first practice.

Fourth consecutive pole position for Tommy Rustad
Tommy Rustad managed to maintain his invincibility in the FIA European Super Production Championship qualifying, in which he remains unbeaten since Budapest. The Norwegian driver claimed his fourth consecutive pole position, which was far from easy. On his first lap Rustad pushed his RJN Nissan Primera to 1:54.010 to obtain provisional pole position, a few tenths of a second from Edenbridge Racing teammates Tom Ferrier and James Hanson.

Rustad remained on pole for seven minutes, before Tom Coronel topped the times with a lap of 1:53.878 in his Carly Motorsport BMW 320i. Shortly afterwards CiBiEmme's Paolo Ruberti and Coronel's team mate Duncan Huisman, currently second in the championship, provisionally climbed to second and third positions respectively. Halfway through the session Rustad came back to set a time of 1:53.781, reclaiming the pole, before improving once more to 1:53.524. The Norwegian then sat in the pits, watching the battle for the other positions.

With ten minutes left in the session, there were eight BMW drivers placed behind Rustad. At one point, Huisman and Peter Kox - the two contenders for the European crown, separated by 3 points in the classification - were sharing the third road of the grid.

But in the later stages Norman Simon (Ravaglia Motorsport BMW 320i) and Tobia Masini (Bigazzi Alfa Romeo 156) managed to drastically improve their times, climbing to second and third in the qualifying classification. The German set a time of 1:53.703 and the Italian responded with 1:53.789.

Huisman and Kox were finally placed fifth and eighth for tomorrow’s title battle.

At the end of the session, the results were extremely close, with twelve cars covered by only 0.6 seconds. Luis Villamil (Bigazzi Alfa Romeo 156) and Donald Molenaar (Renault Dealer Team Renault Clio) managed to make the top-12.

Rustad's team mate Simone Di Luca posted the 21st and final time due to a broken gearbox on his RJN Nissan Primera. Benny Larsson's expected racing comeback failed to take place as he was forced to miss the qualifying session, his engine being moved to Blencowe’s GA Racing car. Paolo Ruberti missed the second part of the session after his CiBiEmme BMW’s gearbox broke.

Tommy Rustad (NOR)– nr 3 RJN Nissan Primera– 4th consecutive pole position: "I am very happy as this is the last race of the year and it is important to finish in a good way. We had a differential problem this morning ; therefore, I was very late in the second free practice session and could only cover a few laps. In qualifying, the car was excellent and I was able to take the best out of my tyres. Everything was perfect in the end. I had to fight with Coronel for the pole but it is not important when you set the best time. When you see the chequered flag, you should be on the top of the list. We still have new tyres for the race tomorrow. Kox and Huisman, who are fighting for the Championship, are very close. I hope we can fight in a good way tomorrow. The target tomorrow will of course be to win the race but it is more important to finish third in the Championship."

Norman Simon (GER)– nr 2 Ravaglia BMW– 2nd on the grid. "We had problems in the free practice sessions this morning so I did not expect to qualify second this afternoon. I also made a mistake with my third set of tyres as I ran off into the dirt. My car was OK considering the circumstances. For tomorrow, I am hoping to make a good start and to have a good fight with Tommy for the third place in the Championship".

Tobia Masini (ITA)– nr 16 Scuderia Bigazzi Alfa Romeo 156– 3rd on the grid : "The car has improved a lot so I am very optimistic for tomorrow. I am not worried about being amongst the title fight tomorrow’s race. I did not want to be on the 3rd or the 4th row as the race will be busy ! I will try to keep the pace of Tommy Rustad and Norman Simon but I do not know how the tyres will wear at this circuit. We have never done more than three consecutive laps with the same set of tyres here. But we will be back in the press conference tomorrow !"

Tom Coronel (NED)– nr 38 Carly Motors BMW– 4th on the grid: "I had a really good feeling at the beginning of the session and my time was quite good. Then I pitted for the second set of tyres but I wasn't able to improve my time. Twice I have been spoiled by the traffic and then I did a mistake. But I believe I can keep a consistent pace in the race. I will be in a difficult position in tomorrow’s fight for the title between Duncan Huisman and Peter Kox as they are both my friends. Therefore, I will do my own race."

Duncan Huisman (NED)– nr 14 Carly Motors BMW– 5th on the grid: "I am happy to be in front of Peter Kox but still disappointed as my tyres were not as good as I expected. When I was on my second set, I tried to negotiate the second right-handed corner completely flat, but it didn't work. I had to drive sideways, which surely cost me a few tenths. I hope tomorrow Kox and I will have a clean fight and that whoever will win the title will do it in a fair way."

Peter Kox (NED)– n 1 Ravaglia Motorsport BMW– 8th on the grid: "We tried very hard. This morning the free practice sessions were not too bad. But I was surprised in qualifying when I did not improve my time as much as I expected on new tyres. It seemed as if I had no grip, which is a mystery, because my feeling was that the car was very good. We are definitely more competitive here than in Jarama, but still not good enough."


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Series General
Drivers Norman Simon , Tom Coronel , Peter Kox , Duncan Huisman , Gianni Morbidelli , Paolo Ruberti , Frans Verschuur , Tom Ferrier , Donald Molenaar , Tommy Rustad , Stefano Gabellini