ETCC: Oschersleben: Practice, qualifying notes

WEATHER: Sunny and windy, with a dry track. QUALIFYING: FARFUS PUTS ALFA ROMEO ON POLE Augusto Farfus created a big surprise by securing his second pole position of the year, and placing Alfa Romeo on top of the qualifying times at ...

WEATHER: Sunny and windy, with a dry track.

QUALIFYING: FARFUS PUTS ALFA ROMEO ON POLE

Augusto Farfus created a big surprise by securing his second pole position of the year, and placing Alfa Romeo on top of the qualifying times at the Oschersleben Motorpark. Despite the fact that this circuit was considered to suit the BMW and SEAT cars much better than the Italian machines, Farfus was not the only Alfa Romeo driver to shine.

Unlike the previous years, when they struggled to be on the pace, the AutoDelta cars were leading for nearly the whole session today. James Thompson set a provisional pole position on his first flying lap (1:33.195); ten minutes later he was ousted by Gabriele Tarquini, the first man under the 1.33 mark (1:32.817). Immediately afterwards, Andy Priaulx improved the pole position time to 1:32.755, while Farfus matched Tarquini's time exactly (1:32.817).

Priaulx's pole position dreams ended ten minutes before the end of the session, when Tarquini went down to 1:32.518. But it was not the end yet, as Farfus claimed the pole position for good and, under the chequered flag, Priaulx stole second place from Tarquini with a lap of 1:32.318. As for the two Mullers, Dirk claimed the fourth spot of the grid (1:32.725), while Jorg qualified in a disappointing 12th position (1:33.312).

Frank Diefenbacher, who had set the fastest time in free practice, qualified sixth with a lap in 1:33.873, just ahead of his team-mate Jordi Gene. SEAT Sport third driver, Rickard Rydell, completed only three laps, setting the 20th fastest time, due to misfire problems.

Oregon Team's Salvatore Tavano claimed another pole position in the Independents Trophy, setting an excellent eighth fastest time overall (1:32.984). He managed to keep behind the fourth Alfa Romeo works driver Fabrizio Giovanardi and the Carly Motors duo: Duncan Huisman and Tom Coronel. Antonio Garcia set the 13th fastest time, but he will be placed at the back of the grid because his engine was changed before the session started.

In the DMSB Produktionswagen Meisterschaft, Thomas Klenke set the best lap time (1:34.269) in his Hotfiel Sport Ford Focus; he will occupy the 18th spot of the grid. Bad luck hit Franz Engstler after he had set the provisional fastest time early in the session; at the beginning of his second flying lap Engstler's BMW was hit by another BMW car that was exiting from the pit lane. "I did not recognize the driver. He just did not see me coming and we collided. My car had a broken driveshaft and suspension, and this forced me out of the session," Engstler said.

PRACTICE 1: THE MÜLLERS TOP A SHORTENED SESSION

Dirk and Jorg Muller managed to smash the FIA ETCC lap record from the very start. In the first practice session of the day, the BMW Team Deutschland team-mates emerged as the fastest drivers in the field, clocking lap times in 1:33.158 and 1:33.184, and improving Jorg's last year's pole position by three tenths of a second.

The session was very close, with nine drivers covered by only seven tenths. SEAT Sport's Rickard Rydell was third-fastest (1:33.383), followed by Andy Priaulx (1:33.406), Frank Diefenbacher (1:33.635), Augusto Farfus (1:33.677), the first of the Alfa Romeo men, and Salvatore Tavano (1:33.706) who topped the Independents list.

Marc Hennerici, in his Wiechers Sport BMW 320i, set the 17th fastest time with a lap in 1:34.511, emerging as the best of the DMSB Produktionswagen Meisterschaft competitors, just ahead of the best Ford drivers, Michael Funke.

The session was red-flagged with seven minutes left, when the gearbox of Patrick Bernhardt's Ford Focus broke, spreading oil on the track. Franz Engstler's BMW and Alessandro Balzan's Honda Accord both spun on the oil and remained beached in the gravel trap at turn 5. Due to the amount of oil on the track, the session was not resumed.

PRACTICE 2: DIEFENBACHER IMPROVES LAP RECORD

Frank Diefenbacher, with his SEAT Toledo Cupra, further improved the lap record for the FIA ETCC cars at the Motopark. Late in the session, the young German completed a lap in 1:33.025, cutting one more tenth from the fastest time set by Dirk Muller in the first practice, and 0.4 ahead of Andy Priaulx, second-fastest at 1:33.464. Diefenbacher's margin was surprisingly wide, compared to the half-a-second covering the nine cars behind him, from Priaulx to Antonio Garcia (10th in 1:34.003).

Another big surprise was created by Oregon Team's independent Luca Rangoni, who set the third-fastest time at 1:33.617, meaning that he was also the fastest of the Alfa Romeo men, knocking Rydell, the Mullers and Farfus into shape behind him. His team-mate Salvatore Tavano was only a further position adrift: eighth, ahead of Tarquini and Garcia.

His gearbox repaired, Patrick Bernhardt joined halfway through the session, but he only covered one lap in his Ford Focus due to a clutch problem.

Technical problems also affected James Thompson, who lost nearly the whole session due of a power-steering failure. As for third SEAT man, Jordi Gene, he was only ranked 23rd because of a wrong set-up.

-fia/etcc-

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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Andy Priaulx , Antonio Garcia , Dirk Müller , Jorg Muller , James Thompson , Frank Diefenbacher , Augusto Farfus , Duncan Huisman , Franz Engstler , Marc Hennerici , Rickard Rydell , Alessandro Balzan , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Luca Rangoni , Salvatore Tavano , Thomas Klenke , Patrick Bernhardt