ETCC: Hockenheimring: Saturday practice/qualifying notes

WEATHER: Sunny and windy, with warm temperatures and a dry track. FREE PRACTICE 1: 2/000 BETWEEN PRIAULX AND RYDELL Only two thousandths of a second separated Andy Priaulx and Rickard Rydell in the FIA ETCC cars' first-ever visit to the ...

WEATHER: Sunny and windy, with warm temperatures and a dry track.

FREE PRACTICE 1: 2/000 BETWEEN PRIAULX AND RYDELL

Only two thousandths of a second separated Andy Priaulx and Rickard Rydell in the FIA ETCC cars' first-ever visit to the Hockenheimring. The Briton set the session's fastest time in his BMW 320i with a lap of 1:49.356, eleven minutes before the end of the session. Soon afterwards, Rydell's SEAT Toledo was clocked at 1:49.358.

As the session went by and the drivers became more comfortable with the track, lap times improved consistently. SEAT Sport's Frank Diefenbacher was the first to break the 1:50 barrier, with a lap of 1:49.434 which remained the provisional fastest for fifteen minutes, until Priaulx and Rydell managed to improve it, demoting the German youngster to third.

Gabriele Tarquini was the fastest of the Alfa Romeo men, setting the fourth-fastest time, only one hundredth of a second behind, while Carly Motors' Tom Coronel placed his independent BMW in an impressing sixth place in the overall classification, ahead of a number of BMW works cars.

The session was very close, with eleven cars covered by only 9 tenths, and 16 in 1.4 seconds.

FREE PRACTICE 2: GENÉ PLACES SEAT AT THE TOP

For most of the session Andy Priaulx was leading the times again, but with only a few minutes to go, Jordi Gené drove his SEAT Toledo Cupra to clock an impressive 1:49.490.

Gené's fastest time unbalanced a situation which had been incredibly close for most of the session, with the 15 fastest cars covered by only nine tenths of a second. Although the Spaniard managed to build a seven-tenth margin ahead of the rest of the field, only one second separated the second-placed Priaulx (1:50.194) from Carl Rosenblad's 17th fastest time (1:51.267).

Rickard Rydell and Dirk Müller were classified third and fourth, with Augusto Farfus fifth, and first of the Alfa Romeo drivers. It was Salvatore Tavano's turn to emerge as the best Independent; the Oregon Team's youngster set the ninth fastest time in the overall classification.

With warmer temperatures, this second session was generally slower than the first one; however an impressive Jan Magnussen drastically improved at the wheel of his Peugeot 307. He was classified 11th, 1.4 seconds behind Gené, but only eight tenths from Priaulx.

A couple of drivers went off: Gabriele Tarquini remained stranded at turn 10, while Tom Coronel rejoined, and was black flagged for receiving external aid.

QUALIFYING: FIRST POLE POSITION FOR SEAT AND GENÉ

SEAT claimed its first pole position since joining the FIA ETCC. In today's qualifying session, SEAT Sport's Jordi Gené confirmed his impressive pace of the second practice, clocking the fastest time at 1:48.669, and ousting his Spanish countryman Antonio García from provisional pole. This result crowned SEAT's consistent improvement over the latest race meetings, and also meant the first pole position for Gené.

The Toledo Cupra cars' great ambitions in Hockenheim were clearly demonstrated by Frank Diefenbacher's first qualifying lap; with a time of 1:49.024 the young German driver set a provisional pole position five minutes into the session. A few seconds later his team-mate Gené clocked a 1:49.350, which was good enough for moving up to second. A number of drivers managed to go under the 1:50 mark, with Fabrizio Giovanardi provisionally claiming third position with a lap in 1:49.523.

As the first third of the session went by, Andy Priaulx shook up the classification, claiming a provisional pole with a lap in 1:48.828; the first driver to break the 1:49 barrier. Diefenbacher responded quickly, improving his time to 1:48.938; however he did not improve his second position behind the BMW Team Great Britain man. Giovanardi was the third one to lap in the 1:48s, and moved up to third again with a lap in 1:48.843.

Then, with only six minutes left in the session, BMW Team Italy-Spain's Antonio García was clocked at 1:48.826, beating Priaulx by only two thousandths of a second. His joy for pole was short-lived, as one minute later, Gené stole the pole from him for good.

Again, the session was incredibly close; 15 cars qualified in the same second, with Oregon Team's Luca Rangoni 11th and fastest of the independents (1:49.532). Jan Magnussen's Peugeot placed 19th, but only 1.5 seconds from the top.

After the session, the Stewards disallowed the 16th-fastest time (1:49.854) set by Alessandro Balzan in his JAS Motorsport Honda Accord, because he failed to stop at the weighing scales. The Italian driver will fill the last-but-one spot of the grid for tomorrow's race 1, having only Rickard Rydell behind. The Swede took part in the session knowing that his times would have been cancelled, due to the engine change occurred on his car after Magny-Cours.

-fia/etcc-

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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Andy Priaulx , Antonio Garcia , Dirk Müller , Jan Magnussen , Tom Coronel , Carl Rosenblad , Frank Diefenbacher , Augusto Farfus , Rickard Rydell , Alessandro Balzan , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Luca Rangoni