ETCC: Estoril: Rounds 19 & 20 qualifying summary

Twenty cars passed scrutineering and took part in the free practice sessions. WEATHER : initially sunny, later slightly cloudy and windy, with a dry track. NEW DRIVER FOR AGS MOTORSPORT Marco Antonelli has taken the wheel of the yellow AGS ...

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

WEATHER : initially sunny, later slightly cloudy and windy, with a dry track.

NEW DRIVER FOR AGS MOTORSPORT
Marco Antonelli has taken the wheel of the yellow AGS Motorsport Alfa Romeo 156 Gta for these final two races of the 2002 FIA European Touring Car Championship. The 38-year-old from Bologna is an experienced Touring Car driver with a number of race wins in the Italian Championship. In the latest seasons he focused on tuning his own team's cars for the Super Production and Group N Italian Championships, just driving in occasional races. His FIA ETCC debut is also his first race this season.

FIRST PRACTICE SESSION: GIOVANARDI AND LARINI SET THE PACE
Alfa Romeo works drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi and Nicola Larini set the pace in a free practice session that was initially dominated by the BMW cars. Jörg Müller and Fredrik Ekblom emerged as the fastest drivers in the session 's early stages, with the German setting a provisional fastest time of 1:50.864, improving to 1:50.553 and 1:50.288 a few minutes later. Ekblom was able to maintain second place behind him, and ten minutes into the session there were five BMW drivers at the top of the time sheets with Dirk Müller third, Jordi Gené fourth and Tom Coronel fifth.

The first driver to break the BMW domination was Salvatore Tavano in his CiBiEmme Honda Civic Type-R, who set a provisional third fastest time at 1:50.515.

Halfway through the session Alfa Romeo men begun to climb up the classification. Larini was the first to break the 1:50. barrier, with a time of 1:49.583, jumping into the lead. With ten minutes remaining, Giovanardi moved up to second place with a time of 1:49.983 but soon afterwards the 2002 FIA European Touring Car champion was surprisingly ousted by Luis Villamil's excellent time of 1.49.944. Two minutes later Giovanardi regained second position with a lap of 1:49.605, and then improved again to 1:49.269, the fastest time in the session.

In the final minutes Jörg Müller and Tom Coronel set times of 1:49.640 and 1:49.722, moving up to third and fourth behind the Giovanardi-Larini duo and ahead of fifth-placed Villamil.

Just before the chequered flag dropped, Villamil's team-mate, Eric Cayrolle, had a collision with Jörg Müller and crashed his Scuderia Bigazzi Alfa Romeo 156 Gta at the end of the main straight; the car was badly damaged. The German driver was fined $500 by the Stewards for having caused the accident.

SECOND PRACTICE SESSION: JÖRG MÜLLER AHEAD OF ALFA ROMEO DUO The second free practice was slower than the first one, with only three drivers able to go under 1:50. Jörg Müller set the fastest time in the session with a lap of 1:49.849, beating Nicola Larini's 1:49.907 by a mere 0.058 seconds. Fabrizio Giovanardi was a close third, only one-tenth of a second behind the German driver with a lap of 1:49.993.

Dirk Müller, Duncan Huisman and Tom Coronel were placed in fourth, fifth and sixth positions respectively, just ahead of Salvatore Tavano's Honda Civic in seventh.

A number of drivers received warnings for driving outside the kerbs and AGS Motorsport's newcomer Marco Antonelli was given a black flag and a 200-dollar fine because of repeated errors. The Italian also had a spin in the early stages of the session.

Cayrolle did not take part in the practice session, his car being repaired after his first session crash.

QUALIFYING: RYDELL GIVES VOLVO ITS FIRST POLE POSITION
With a strong performance in the qualifying session, Rickard Rydell managed to claim Volvo's first pole position in the FIA European Touring Car Championship. His previous best was second place on the starting grid, in Brno and Anderstorp.

>From the beginning of the session Rydell showed he was aiming for the pole, breaking the 1:49 barrier six minutes into the session. His lap time of 1:48.894, was more than half a second faster than Nicola Larini's 1:49.485 and Jörg Müller's 1:49.490, who were provisinally placed second and third. Four minutes after Rydell's exploit, Fabrizio Giovanardi climbed up to second position, clocking a time of 1:49.088.

Most of the regular front -runners improved their lap times in the second half of the session. Larini and Jörg Müller recovered third and fourth place with times of 1:49.101 and 1:49.324 respectively. But they both lost one position when Tom Coronel set a third fastest time at 1:49.092, only a mere four-thousandths of a second slower than Giovanardi.

As the end of the session approached, Rydell made another attempt and managed to improve again to 1:48.734, claiming pole position for good. Coronel also tried to improve, but he went off the track at Turn 7, his BMW stuck in the gravel trap.

Three cars did not take part in the session; Eric Cayrolle's Alfa Romeo was not yet repaired after the morning crash, while Tommy Rustad's Nissan Primera and Sandro Sardelli's Honda Civic Type-R had both suffered engine failures.

NOTES AND QUOTES

Rickard Rydell, Volvo S60 Racing Team: "It was really time to set a pole position. I came close to doing it a couple of times before, like in Brno where I had a fight with Fabrizio (Giovanardi). I thought Donington would be my best chance of pole position, but I'm happy I managed to claim this result before the end of the season. Our engine has been only slightly improved, so we are still losing on the straight line compared to Alfa Romeo and BMW cars. However the balance of the car was very good, after I changed the set-up following the first practice session. I will try to win a race for Volvo this year."

Fabrizio Giovanardi, Gta Racing Team Nordauto: "I was not as fast I could have been, due to a mistake. I was quite relaxed as I have already won the Championship, but I'm here to win and I think it will be a tough race. I'm happy for Volvo, as their car is good and Rickard (Rydell) is a good driver. Both the team and I will have to concentrate on Nicola (Larini), to help him to finish second in the Championship. If he needs my help, I will do everything I can."

Tom Coronel, Carly Motors: "My feeling with the car is very good. I had a good result in the first free practice, but I decided to change the set-up and it did not work. So I changed again and I qualified third. I was very surprised with the grip of my tyres, I set two very good lap times and then I spun in the cool-down lap. I could not have claimed pole position from Rickard (Rydell); he was faster than me and Fabrizio (Giovanardi) and I had already used my tyres for two laps. However, I was still trying. We need a podium finish, and I hope it will rain, because this could help me to get great result."

Nicola Larini, Gta Racing Team Nordauto: "For sure I'm not happy. We did not manage to use our front tyres at their best and my car was understeering too much. This is the kind of track that is very demanding on the front tyres. It was not so bad in free practice, but then we did not manage to get the most out of new tyres. We improved our lap times, but compared to the others we have lost something. I have to say that Giovanardi, Coronel and I are all within the same tenth of a second. I'm a bit worried because Jörg Müller will start right behind me on the grid, usually his car has a better start and therefore it will be hard to defend my second position in the Championship."

Jörg Müller, BMW Team Deutschland: "We could not fight for the top positions because of the handicap weight. I have 20 kg on board and I can feel it. If we look at Dirk (Müller) who was in pole at Donington and is 11th today, we really understand that the ballast is affecting the cars' performances quite a lot. Here we have long corners and uphill sections and this makes things worse. For this reason I'm not quite confident of stealing second place in the Championship from Larini, but I will fight to the end!"

-ettc-

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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Dirk Müller , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Eric Cayrolle , Duncan Huisman , Rickard Rydell , Jordi Gene , Salvatore Tavano , Nicola Larini , Tommy Rustad