FIA EUROPEAN TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP ROUNDS 15 AND 16 PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING Twenty cars passed scrutineering and took part in the free practice sessions. WEATHER : Sunny and warm. PRACTICE 1: COLCIAGO CREATES A SURPRISE ON HIS FIRST ...
TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
ROUNDS 15 AND 16
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
Twenty cars passed scrutineering and took part in the free practice sessions.
WEATHER : Sunny and warm.
PRACTICE 1: COLCIAGO CREATES A SURPRISE ON HIS FIRST APPEARANCE
Roberto Colciago, recently crowned Swedish Touring Car champion for the second consecutive year, made an impressive debut, setting the fastest time of 1:48.929 at the wheel of a works Alfa Romeo 156 Gta, the only driver able to break the 1:49 barrier. From the start of the session, Colciago was one of the fastest drivers, setting a provisional best time at 1:49. 735. His Nordauto team-mates Fabrizio Giovanardi and Nicola Larini were timed at 1:49.829 and 1:50.838, taking second and third positions respectively. Ten minutes into the session, current Championship leader Giovanardi improved to 1:49.299, claiming a new provisional fastest lap. A few minutes later Team Deutschland's Dirk Müller set a provisional third best lap at 1:50.172, but he was soon ousted by Larini's lap of 1:49.527, which gave him the provisional second position. Larini improved again to 1:49.052, to top the provisional classification. But with only two minutes to go he was finally ousted by Colciago's time of 1:48.929. At the same time Dirk Müller improved again to 1:49.102 and placed his BMW 320i in third position, just ahead of Giovanardi and his Team Deutschland team-mate Jörg Müller (1:50.471). Scuderia Bigazzi French driver Eric Cayrolle benefited from his previous experiences in the 24 Hours of Sicily, which he won in 2002, setting an outstanding sixth best time at 1:50.620. Local driver Domenico Guagliardo was the fastest ETCC newcomer - excluding Colciago - at the wheel of the AGS Motorsport Alfa Romeo 156 Gta; Guagliardo's 1:53.230 was good enough for the 13th position. The second Sicilian driver, Salvatore Tavano, did not set a time due to misfiring problems, while his CiBiEmme team-mate Sandro Sardelli set a good 12th time. The Prodrive-built Volvo S60cars struggled to stay on the pace. Rickard Rydell could not improve on a disappointing 11th place, while James Hanson was classified 16th. They complained that their gear ratios were too long for the track and the engines could not top the 8000-rpm mark.
PRACTICE 2: GIOVANARDI LEADS ALFA 1-2-3
The Alfa Romeo cars dominated the second session with works drivers Giovanardi, Larini and Colciago placing their 156 Gta cars in the first three positions. Giovanardi only took part in the first half of the session before returning to the pits; but that was enough for him to set the fastest lap of 1:49.080, drastically improving on Colciago time of 1:49.736. After setting his best time, Giovanardi arrived too quickly at the braking of the first chicane, almost losing control of his car. The Italian driver drove sideways, managing to avoid a spin, but his car's rear left tyre hit a kerb. For most of the session Colciago - who had improved to 1:49.250 - was lying in second place, but Larini finally ousted him. Currently second in the Championship, Larini managed to improve his time and position on two occasions in the final minutes: first he went down to 1:49.297 and then to 1:49.080, exactly equalling Giovanardi's time! Once more, Dirk Müller was the fastest BMW driver in the session. His best time (1:49.470) was good enough for fourth position. The Volvo cars had a few technical problems again, but with the gear ratios changed, Rydell managed to set the ninth-best time. Fredrik Ekblom, in the RBM-built BMW Team Belgium car, set the fifth time, ahead of Ravaglia Motorsport drivers Fabrizio De Simone and newcomer Gianluca De Lorenzi. A few drivers received black and white warning flags for straight-cutting the chicanes; De Simone got a black flag because of repeated errors. Jörg Müller did not set a time in the session as he went off on his first lap. The German's BMW took off over the kerbs of the first chicane and landed violently on its nose. Müller came back to the pits with substantial damages to the front of his car and remained in the pits for the rest of the session. Robert Collard's RJN Motorsport Nissan Primera did not take part in the session due to an engine problem.
QUALIFYING: GIOVANARDI BACK ON POLE AFTER A THREE-RACE BREAK
Fabrizio Giovanardi recovered his traditional early season position at the top of the starting grid by claiming pole position today; his fifth of the season. After being the fastest driver in qualifying during the first four events of the season, the Alfa Romeo man was obscured in the three latest meeting by his team-mate Larini (poleman in Anderstorp and Spa) and BMW's Dutchman Tom Coronel (poleman in Oschersleben).
On the fast track around the lake of Pergusa, where he is undefeated since 1997, Giovanardi topped the qualifying session from the very start. On his first lap he claimed a provisional pole with a time of 1:49.477, ahead of his team-mates Larini (1:49.342) and Colciago (1:49.587). On their second lap all the three of them managed to improve, but again Giovanardi was fastest at 1:48.296, with Larini second (1:49.208) and Colciago third (1:49.228). On his third lap Giovanardi improved again at 1:48.142.
Not satisfied with this, the Italian driver made another attempt ten minutes before the end of the session and managed to break the 1:48 barrier, setting a time of 1:47.552 that was good enough for pole position.
Without this further improvement, Giovanardi could have lost out to Larini, who improved to 1:48.065, giving him second place on the starting grid for tomorrow's Race One. Colciago looked like making it a clean sweep for Alfa Romeo, grabbing a provisional third place with a time of 1:48.932. But on his final lap Dirk Müller was able to steal the third position, drastically improving to 1:48.904.
None of the other drivers managed to go under the 1:49 mark, with a group of five BMW cars classified between the fifth and the ninth position: Jörg Müller, Ekblom, De Simone, De Lorenzi and Gené.
Eric Cayrolle's Scuderia Bigazzi Alfa Romeo 156 completed the top ten, ahead of his team-mate Luis Villamil, James Hanson's Volvo S60 and Sandro Sardelli 's Honda Civic Type-R.
Local drivers Salvatore Tavano (Honda Civic) and Domenico Guagliardo (Alfa Romeo 156) qualified in 15th and 17th position respectively. Both the RJN Motorsort Nissan Primera cars continued to suffer from technical problems, with Rustad qualifying 18th and Collard 19th. As for Rydell, he failed to set a time due to a spectacular crash on his first flying lap. The Swede lost control of his car in the last chicane and crashed into the barriers at the entrance of the pit-lane.