ETCC: Jarama: Qualifying report

WEATHER Sunny and hot with a dry track. All the twenty cars entered passed scrutineering and were allowed to take part in the two free practice sessions. FIRST SESSION: VILLAMIL SECOND FASTEST BEHIND GIOVANARDI Scuderia Bigazzi local hero...

WEATHER
Sunny and hot with a dry track.

All the twenty cars entered passed scrutineering and were allowed to take part in the two free practice sessions.

FIRST SESSION: VILLAMIL SECOND FASTEST BEHIND GIOVANARDI

Scuderia Bigazzi local hero Luis Villamil set the second fastest time in the first practice at the wheel of his Alfa Romeo 156 Gta, confirming that he is one of the men to watch at Jarama, his home track. The Spaniard set a time of 1:43.527, 0.764 seconds slower than Championship leader Fabrizio Giovanardi best lap of 1:42.763.

Dirk Müller was classified third, the best of the BMW drivers, having clocked a time of 1:43.534 in his Schnitzer-built BMW 320i; the German was only 0.007 seconds slower than Villamil. Giovanardi's Nordauto team-mate Nicola Larini set the fourth time with a lap of 1:43.581.

Behind the top four were Jörg Müller in the second Schnitzer BMW 320i (1:43.801), Rickard Rydell in the first of the Prodrive-built Volvo S60 cars (1:43.891) and Tom Coronel, at the wheel of the quickest Carly Motors-Team Isert BMW 320i cars (1:44.042). The other Spanish driver Jordi Gené (Ravaglia Motorsport BMW 320i) set the ninth fastest time with a lap of 1:44.325.

The CiBiEmme Team crew worked all night to fit new Super 2000 spec engines in Salvatore Tavano's and Sandro Sardelli's Honda Civic Type-R cars. Tavano only completed five laps before stopping at the side of the track in the late stages of the session, with a broken drive shaft. Technical problems also hit Paolo Ruberti's AGS Motorsport Alfa 156 Gta, sidelined for most of the session due to a broken gearbox.

SECOND SESSION: GIOVANARDI-VILLAMIL ON TOP AGAIN

Alfa Romeo and Gta Racing Team Nordauto driver Fabrizio Giovanardi topped the second practice too. Although the Italian was able to break the 1:42 barrier again, his best time of 1:43.088 was still faster than the rest of the field.

As during the first session, Luis Villamil set the second fastest time at 1:43.474, improving on his first session time by five hundredths of a second, and enabling him to reduce his gap to Giovanardi to 0.386 seconds. Jörg and Dirk Müller were classified third and fourth in the session, clocking times of 1:43.546 and 1:43.722 respectively. Nicola Larini set the fifth times (1:43.841) ahead of James Hanson (1:44.259) who managed to outpace his Volvo team-mate Rickard Rydell (1:44.395). As for Jordi Gené, he was classified 12th with a time of 1:44.910.

Both the two CiBiEmme Honda Civic cars of Tavano and Sardelli remained in the garage, the mechanics working on the engines.

GIOVANARDI AND LARINI SET THE PACE AGAIN

The current Alfa Romeo domination of the 2002 season of the FIA European Touring Car Championship resulted in another one-two for Gta Racing Team Nordauto drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi and Nicola Larini in today's qualifying session.

Their attack on pole position for tomorrow's Race One began halfway through the session, when Giovanardi set provisional pole with a lap of 1:43.063, just ahead of Larini, whose time was 1:43.134. The two Italians pushed BMW Team Deutschland drivers Jörg and Dirk Müller down to third and fourth position respectively, although a very narrow margin of only 0.2 seconds separated the Müllers from Giovanardi.

Giovanardi and Larini improved again just before the end of the session, putting another half a second between them and the Müllers. Giovanardi was the first one to go under the 1:43 barrier claiming the pole position for good with a time of at 1:42.571, while Larini maintained second position with a lap of 1:42.676, just 0.105 seconds behind his team-mate.

A group of drivers had a tough fight for the fifth position on the starting grid, which was eventually won by Paolo Ruberti in the AGS Motorsport Alfa Romeo 156 Gta. With less than ten minutes left in the session, Ruberti set his best time of 1:43.499, ousting Scuderia Bigazzi Spanish driver Luis Villamil from fifth place. A few minutes later Villamil also lost sixth place when Prodrive driver Rickard Rydell clocked a time of 1:43.675 at the wheel of his Volvo S60.

The drivers classified between the sixth and tenth positions were all packed within 0.15 seconds, with Rydell's team-mate James Hanson, Tom Coronel (Carly Motors-Team Isert BMW 320i) and Jordi Gené (BMW Team Spain BMW 320i) in eighth, ninth and tenth positions respectively.

Despite setting the sixth fastest time, Rydell will be forced to start tomorrow's first race from the 20th and final spot of the starting grid, as the team applied for an engine change on the Swede's Volvo S60. "The engine was damaged during a shakedown test at Milbrook a few days ago and we have been forced to change it", team manager Dave Benbow explained. The Championship sporting regulations require that an engine should be used for a minimum of two consecutive meetings and Rydell's engine had been changed just before the previous meeting in Brno.

Gianni Morbidelli (Carly Motors-Team Isert BMW 320i) and Tommy Rustad (RJN Motorsport Nissan Primera) had a very disappointing session due to various technical problems; they will start from the 16th and 17th spots of the grid.

The two CiBiEmme Team Honda Civic Type-R cars will line-up right behind them: Sandro Sardelli in 18th position and Salvatore Tavano in 19th. Both the cars continued to suffer from engine failures: Tavano had a fuel pressure poblems and did not even take part in the session, while Sardelli managed to cover one slow lap before stopping along the track.

Notes and Quotes

Fabrizio Giovanardi, nr 1 Gta Racing Team Nordauto, "After four poles from four meetings, it is difficult to find something to say. We have a fantastic car, and once again we are first and second. I hope the others will have better cars in the race; I think it will be a lot closer there. We had a problem at the start of the session, due to the hot weather, and my car was understeering. We tried some changes later and it was working better. I think the BMW will be closer during the race; we saw at Brno that their car was good in the slow chicanes, so I think this circuit will be good for them. We have seen that the rear-wheel drive cars make better starts, and it is going to be more difficult to overtake on this circuit than at the others we have visited."

Nicola Larini, nr 2 Gta Racing Team Nordauto, "I'm always second ^Ö what can I say ? I tried to push hard and used my third set of tyres, because I prefer not to race on new tyres. I pushed hard, and got a good time, but as usual Fabrizio was quicker than me. But I am happy. I had the same understeer problems that he had at the beginning, but we changed the tyres, the set-up and the pressure and the times improved a lot. Our strategy is to have a good start, as it will not be easy to overtake here."

Jörg Müller, nr 42 BMW Team Deutschland, "In the end, we are as far behind the leaders here as we were in Brno, if you factor the track length into the equation. I hope to make a good start tomorrow and to keep it. It will be difficult to overtake, as there is no real straight line here ^Ö even on the pit straight you have to brake half the was down for the first corner. We hope that we will get some more power soon, but I don't feel it yet. The engineers say that it is very difficult to find more power in this car, and I have to believe them. It is very important for us to have the Head of BMW Motorsport, Gerhard Berger, visit us here today. It shows that this is a factory effort, and that BMW Motorsport is behind us."

Rickard Rydell, nr 60 Volvo S60 Racing Team, "I have to start from the back of the grid due to the engine problem we had before coming to Jarama and it' s a shame, because I have the feeling that Volvo could be competitive with the best BMW cars. But obviously starting from the back will make everything more difficult. If I'm lucky I think I could aim for a sixth or seventh place in the first race that would enable me to have higher hopes for the second one. I also have to say that we were not as fast as we were in Brno. The car's set-up was good but we had too much grip with the tyres and we still need to have more power."

Paolo Ruberti, nr 14 AGS Motorsport, "I am satisfied with my fifth place in qualifying, particularly because I had a tough time in the morning practice when the gearbox broke. The team had to fit the spare gearbox in my car, which was even worse than the first one. It tends to spit the second gear out and this forced me to drive the Le Mans corner keeping my right hand on the gearbox lever to keep second gear in. It's not very easy to negotiate corners with only one hand on the steering wheel. I am sure that this cost me some time on my best lap and considering that I was just two tenths behind Jörg Müller who is third^Å The team has improved the car very much since Brno. We found that we were running with too much camber on the front and as soon as we reduced the angle the car proved to be much better. Therefore I'm quite confident I can score some more points tomorrow."

Luis Villamil, nr 15 Scuderia Bigazzi, "I was so happy for my second position in the morning practice, although I knew that was a place too good for our team's means. However, I was aiming for something better than the sixth position we achieved in qualifying, but it was my fault. I asked to change something in the set-up between practice and qualifying and this proved to be the wrong choice. I used three different sets of tyres, despite this I did not manage to improve the lap times. Thus we will be forced to rethink the whole set-up taking different and hopefully better decisions for tomorrow."

Jordi Gené, nr 5 BMW Team Spain, "I am happy with my qualifying. Not really because of the ninth position on the grid, but because we are just one tenth of a second off the sixth placed driver. My goal was to be among the drivers who could fight for the points in the races and I think that I will be in a position to do it. We really need to obtain a good result tomorrow, firstly because this is my home race and secondly because I would like to give some confidence to the team, which has been experiencing a very tough season so far. I know that I might have done a bit better today, I made a couple of small mistakes that cost me at least one or two places on the grid, but in the end I reckon it was not the end of the world and to start ninth in Race One should be good enough to go for the points."

-etcc-

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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Dirk Müller , Gerhard Berger , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Rickard Rydell , Gianni Morbidelli , Paolo Ruberti , Jordi Gene , Salvatore Tavano , Nicola Larini , Tommy Rustad