Alfa Romeo and BMW in A Tit-For-Tat Farfus Leads The Championship, As Seat Scores Points The Alfa Romeo-BMW fight resumed where it had finished last year. The two Manufacturers dominated one race apiece in the opening meeting of the 2004 FIA ...
Alfa Romeo and BMW in A Tit-For-Tat
Farfus Leads The Championship, As Seat Scores Points
The Alfa Romeo-BMW fight resumed where it had finished last year. The two Manufacturers dominated one race apiece in the opening meeting of the 2004 FIA European Touring Car Championship.
In the first race the AutoDelta trio - Augusto Farfus, Gabriele Tarquini and Fabrizio Giovanardi - took command, and then had a tough fight for the lead. The Brazilian youngster claimed his first ETCC win on his Touring Car competition debut, ahead of his team-mates Tarquini and Giovanardi. This was also the first win for a non-European driver since the Championship's revival in 2001.
In the second race, the BMWs of Jörg and Dirk Müller took the lead at the start. The race nearly turned into a private BMW affair when Tarquini and Giovanardi eliminated each other in a collision at the Ascari. In the second part of the race, Jörg Müller created a gap, while a technical problem forced Dirk Müller to slow down, and he was passed by Andy Priaulx and Farfus.
With an astonishing debut in the Championship, the 20-years old Farfus is now leading the Drivers' Championship. However the results of both races remain provisional, pending technical scrutineering on his Alfa Romeo 156 S2000.
SEAT had a good start of the season, scoring points in both races; Tom Coronel claimed two wins in the Independents Trophy at the wheel of his Carly Motors BMW.
RACE 1 REPORT
Safety-car in on the opening lap
At the start the two BMWs of Dirk and Jörg Müller jumped from the second row to the lead, chased by Augusto Farfus. Salvatore Tavano, placed in 11th position, stalled the engine and was violently hit from behind by Carl Rosenblad's BMW. Both cars were badly damaged, and the Race Director called the safety-car in, while Tavano was taken to the medical centre for a check-up. He was soon dismissed.
Lap 1: 1. D. Müller, 2. J. Müller, 3. Farfus, 4. Priaulx, 5. Tarquini, 6. Giovanardi, 7. Diefenbacher, 8. Coronel
Alfa drivers' attack after the green flag
The race restarted at the end of the third lap. Farfus attacked J. Müller at the first chicane, then he and Tarquini both passed the German at the braking of Lesmo. This action cost J. Müller two further positions, in benefit of Priaulx and Giovanardi. The latter overtook the Briton at the Ascari, forming an Alfa Romeo trio in chase of D. Müller. Rangoni retired on the third lap after a collision with Rydell.
Lap 4: 1. D. Müller, 2. Farfus, 3. Tarquini, 4. Giovanardi, 5. Priaulx, 6. J. Müller, 7. Coronel, 8. Diefenbacher
Three Alfa cars in the lead
On lap 5, Farfus took the lead, overtaking D. Müller at the first chicane. During the same lap, Dirk lost second position to Tarquini (at Lesmo) and the third to Giovanardi (at Ascari).
Zanardi was fighting for ninth position with the three SEATs of Gené, Rydell and Morbidelli.
Lap 5: 1. Farfus, 2. Tarquini, 3. Giovanardi, 4. D. Müller, 5. Priaulx, 6. J. Müller, 7. Coronel, 8. Diefenbacher
Tarquini and Giovanardi in close fight
On lap 6, J. Müller overtook Priaulx for fith position, while Giovanardi dived inside Tarquini at the Parabolica. The two Alfa cars clashed, and Giovanardi managed to steal second place from his team-mate. Asch's Ford Focus retired with clutch problems. Zanardi moved up to ninth, overtaking Rydell and Gené.
Giovanardi was shown a black and white flag, due to his manoeuvre. On lap 7 Tarquini recovered second place, only to lose it again to Giovanardi on the following lap.
Lap 8: 1. Farfus, 2. Giovanardi, 3. Tarquini, 4. D. Müller, 5. J. Müller, 6. Priaulx, 7. Coronel, 8. Diefenbacher
Farfus leads an Alfa Romeo 1-2-3
On the last lap, Tarquini managed to pass Giovanardi for good. Farfus took the chequered flag first, with a very narrow margin ahead of his team-mate. D. Müller led home a BMW quartet, followed by J. Müller, Priaulx and Coronel, who won the Independents' race.
Diefenbacher was classified eight, and scored one point for SEAT. Zanardi finished ninth, from Gené, Rydell and Morbidelli. Proteam Motorsport rookie D'Aste finished 14th overall and second of the Independents.
RACE 2 REPORT
Hara-kiri for Tarquini and Giovanardi
Diefenbacher's SEAT was on pole on the reverse grid, from which Rosenblad's BMW and Tavano's Alfa were missing after their Race 1 accident. Coronel made the best start and turned first into the chicane, followed by Diefenbacher and D. Müller. The latter overtook Diefenbacher at Lesmo, moving up to second.
Giovanardi and Tarquini were in a close fight while chasing the leading pack, and when the field arrived at the Ascari they collided. Tarquini, on the inside, hit Giovanardi and crashed into the barriers; his team-mate went off in the gravel and rejoined at the back of the field. Zanardi, who was closely following them, spun in avoidance. Harrison also went off at the Parabolica, and remained stranded in the gravel.
Before the end of the lap, J. Müller jumped into second, overtaking both Diefenbacher and D. Müller.
Lap 1: 1. Coronel, 2. J. Müller, 3. D. Müller, 4. Diefenbacher, 5. Priaulx, 6. D'Aste, 7. Farfus, 8. Gené.
Four BMWs in the lead
On lap 2, J. Müller took the lead, passing Coronel. Dirk Müller and Diefenbacher were in a tough fight for third, which enabled Priaulx to pass the SEAT driver. Morbidelli retired after a collision with Rangoni.
On lap 3, Coronel slipped down to fourth, having been passed by D. Müller and Priaulx. On lap 4, Priaulx stole second place from D. Müller. For a few laps D'Aste was able to keep an excellent sixth position, but then he slipped down the ranking. Farfus was quickly recovering, moving up to sixth, right behind Diefenbacher.
Lap 4: 1. J. Müller, 2. Priaulx, 3. D. Müller, 4. Coronel, 5. Diefenbacher, 6. Farfus, 7. Gené, 8. García.
J. Müller creates a gap
On lap 5, Priaulx and D. Müller were fighting door-to-door for the second position; Diefenbacher and Farfus were doing the same for the fifth. On lap 6, Farfus overtook Diefenbacher, then Coronel, and closed on to the Priaulx-D. Müller pair. Giovanardi retired due to his accident with Tarquini. All this fighting helped J. Müller to create a gap in the lead. Grunert retired with a broken driveshaft.
On lap 7. D. Müller was on the tail of Priaulx's car, when Farfus attacked them both. The Alfa and Dirk's BMW clashed at the exit of the La Roggia chicane, and the Brazilian moved up to third. In an all-Spanish fight, García overtook Gené for seventh position.
Lap 7: 1. J. Müller, 2. Priaulx, 3. Farfus, 4. D. Müller, 5. Coronel, 6. Diefenbacher, 7. García, 8. Gené.
Two SEATs in the points
In the two last laps, Farfus desperately tried to steal second position from Priaulx, but the Briton closed all the gaps and crossed the line 3.2 seconds behind race-winner J. Müller.
D. Müller was classified fourth, despite a differential failure, followed by Coronel who won again the Independents' race. At the last corner, Diefenbacher recovered the sixth position from García, while Gené was classified eight. D'Aste obtained a brilliant ninth (second of the Independents again), ahead of Zanardi, who managed to overtake Rydell on the last lap.
Augusto FARFUS - AutoDelta Squadra Corse, 1st in Race 1 and 3rd in Race 2 "I'm so happy with this great result in my very first touring car race. We did a very good job during the winter and worked a lot, from the first test to this race here in Monza. At the beginning, I was a bit afraid, because touring cars are completely different from single-seaters. But it was a very good weekend for me. I had a good fight and even though I had a couple of problems during the first race. I did my best to keep the lead, and I managed to do that! The second race was great fun as well, and I could overtake some cars by slipstreaming. But of course the championship is going to be very long, and this is only just the start. I hope I'll score some more wins during the course of the season."
Jörg MÜLLER - BMW Team Deutschland, 5th in Race 1 and 1st in Race 2 "After qualifying I didn't expect to be anywhere in the top three. I expected the race to be extremely difficult, because the Alfas still have a higher power level, and Monza is a track where they are at an advantage. We could do better lap times by slipstreaming and braking later than they did, although we are still about 5 kph slower on the straights. We worked out a very good strategy for the first race and kept our tyres, so we could use the new ones in the second race; and it worked out."
Andy PRIAULX - BMW Team Great Britain, 6th in Race 1 and 2nd in Race 2 "I'm quite happy with my second place, and with my position in the first race as well. It could have been a lot worse! I had the chance to put in some good moves, and I enjoyed the fight with Dirk in the second race a lot. It was fair: really on the edge, but we didn't touch. A great fight! Hopefully, we can carry on the same way."
Dirk MÜLLER - BMW Team Deutschland, 4th in Race 1 and 4th in Race 2 "In the first race, we were the best in division two. The Alfas were more or less in their own league, there was not really a chance of beating them. On the straights, they were just flying. In the second race, I was struggling with technical problems on the differential. I'm really, really happy to have finished the second race. However I have to say that Farfus was a little over-optimistic when he was overtaking me."
Gabriele TARQUINI - AutoDelta Squadra Corse, 2nd in Race 1 and DNF in Race 2 "I've really not been well this weekend. I was down with high fever last night and I'm still quite ill. Having said that, the races were short, so it wasn't a problem physically. The clash with Fabrizio was due to a misunderstanding. He was passing me on the left in the Ascari and we touched right in the middle of the corner."
Fabrizio GIOVANARDI - AutoDelta Squadra Corse, 3rd in Race 1 and DNF in Race 2 "Unlike last year, I have a really fast car, so I could do a lot of overtaking during the race today. I had a very good, very clean first race, but then there was the incident with Gabriele in the second race. Obviously, he's to blame for that, but I agree that it's been a misunderstanding. He couldn't have done something like that deliberately. The Alfas and the BMWs were really strong, as we expected, but we also saw the SEATs put in a tough struggle during the first two or three laps."
Tom CORONEL - Carly Motors, 7th in Race 1 and 5th in Race 2 "It was a very tough race day, with some great fights in the second race. I obviously wanted to cross the line as the first of the privateers, so I was pushing really hard. The others were faster, but I could use slipstreaming to get to them. In the end, I didn't want to risk too much though, and decided to keep it clean and drive my position home; but I hope we can do even better next time."
Frank DIEFENBACHER, SEAT Sport, 8th in Race 1 and 6th in Race 2 "I'm absolutely delighted to have scored points for SEAT on the very first meeting of the season. I was also on pole for round two, the team's first pole position, but not the last I'm sure! I was a little concerned with the car's engine temperature during the first race; I had to slipstream the BMW ahead of me, but each time I moved up behind him, the temperature went up. In the second race I had a very good start, but my foot slipped off the brake pedal three times during the race. I didn't hit anyone, but I lost a little time. I went around the outside of Garcia at the Parabolica on the last lap to finish sixth, but maybe I could have finished higher if I'd had the engine from practice. But, that's racing and it's been a fantastic weekend for us."
Roland ASCH - RS-Line Rotpunkt Sport, 21st in Race 1 and 19th in Race 2 "I'm really enjoying racing against all the big names, like Giovanardi and Tarquini, and I like the series a lot. However, we do still have some small problems with our Ford Focus. But things are gradually improving. The race wasn't even so bad. We had some problems with the clutch, but otherwise, the car is getting better. We're working on it. We had to start completely from scratch here: tyres, engine, gearbox, everything was new! I think we might make some small improvements before Valencia. We're going step by step. We'd like to be closer on the pace in the privateer's cup in Hockenheim. But the team did a great job working with the material we had."
Paulien ZWART - Carly Motors, 17th in Race 1 and 16th in Race 2 "I must say, it is quite difficult. I'm definitely going to need some more test days. The first race was a little boring because I was driving on my own a lot. In the second race, I had a really good fight with Ruokonen in the Honda. We were battling hard and I really had fun! I finished both races, I have no damage and my lap times were getting better and better. I'm looking forward to the next race already."
Toni R. RUOKONEN - GR Asia, 18th in Race 1, 14th in Race 2 "It's my first race in the new championship and it's a pleasure to learn all the new tracks. There are six new tracks for me, and this is the first familiarization with the new car and track here. I didn't get much track time yesterday, but I'm very happy with the weekend. We had a very good race, even though I lost my power steering. It wouldn't handle properly in the slow chicanes. But nevertheless, I enjoyed it a lot and I really liked the fight with Paulien Zwart. I think that was a good show for our spectators."