ETCC: Spa: Race one, two notes

WEATHER: Partly cloudy and warm, with a dry track. BMW Drivers Dominate Both Races in Spa The 13th and 14th rounds of the FIA European Touring Car Championship in Spa turned to be a BMW festival, under the very eyes of Motorsport...

WEATHER: Partly cloudy and warm, with a dry track.

BMW Drivers Dominate Both Races in Spa

The 13th and 14th rounds of the FIA European Touring Car Championship in Spa turned to be a BMW festival, under the very eyes of Motorsport director Mario Theissen.

After two breathtaking races, plenty of overtaking, slipstreaming and clashes, BMW Team Deutschland's Dirk and Jörg Müller emerged as the absolute dominators of the weekend. The two Germans performed a fantastic fight in the first race, and eventually equally shared wins and second places. Dirk won Race 1 one from Jörg, and they finished Race 2 in reverse order. With these results, they are also first (Dirk) and second (Jörg) in the Drivers' Championship, separated by three points only. They are still chased by BMW Team Great Britain's Andy Priaulx, who was placed fourth and fifth today, slipping down from the top of the classification to third position, only 5 points from the lead.

SEAT Sport's Jordi Gené after Race 1, and by BMW Team Italy-Spain's Antonio García after Race 2 climbed on the third step of the podium.

Gabriele Tarquini was the best Alfa Romeo driver, with a fifth and a fourth place; despite this he saw his gap from the lead stretched to 20 points. It was not a lucky day for the Italian Manufacturer, which had one of his drivers - Fabrizio Giovanardi - eliminated (together with Alessandro Zanardi and Rickard Rydell) in a pile-up at the start of the first race. Augusto Farfus completed a great recovery in Race 1 - from 31st on the grid to 8th - and took the lead of Race 2 until he was given a drive-through penalty. In the Independents Trophy, Oregon Team's Salvatore Tavano and Carly Motors' Tom Coronel took one win apiece, but the Dutchman was particularly impressive, finishing sixth overall and clocking the fastest lap in Race 2. JAS Motorsport's Alessandro Balzan and Crawford Racing's Carl Rosenblad were on the pace, placing second in Race 1 and Race 2 respectively.

The two races counting towards the German DMSB Produktionswagen Meisterschaft resulted in two identical podiums. Schubert Motors' team-mates Thomas Winkelhock and Claudia Hürtgen finished first and second twice, with Ford Hotfiel Sport's Michael Funke third in both races.


Giovanardi, Rydell and Zanardi eliminated at the start

Benhardt (21st after qualifying) was demoted to the last spot of the grid, due to an engine change. His car repaired during the night, Farfus was fastest in the warm-up, with a lap in 2:32.786, quicker than the pole. A delayed start, due to a wrong grid formation, resulted in a reduction of race distance from 8 to 7 laps.

At the start, Mollekens moved from right to left, Giovanardi steered in avoidance and hit Rydell; their cars spun and collected Zanardi's. All the three drivers were out of the race. J. Müller took the lead, chased by D. Müller, Priaulx, Gené, Tarquini, Mollekens and Diefenbacher. During the first lap, Dirk overtook Jörg at the Bus Stop, but the latter recovered the lead at La Source. Zwart retired with an engine problem. Winkelhock and Hürtgen were leading the German Championship's race.

D. Müller retakes the lead at Les Combes

On lap 2, D. Müller passed his team-mate at Les Combes and took the lead again. In another fight between team-mates, Tavano overtook Rangoni and moved up to 10th, leading the Independents Trophy. On lap 3, the Stewards awarded Mollekens with a drive-through penalty, for having caused the collision at the start. D'Aste retired with a blown engine. Funke, Kissling and Engstler were fighting for the third position in the DPM.

On lap 4, Diefenbacher passed Mollekens, moving up to seventh; Balzan overtook Rangoni for 11th, and was threating Tavano's leadership in the Independents Trophy. Another engine failure forced Harrison to retire.

Mollekens observes the drive-through on last lap

On lap 5, Gené overtook Priaulx for third, while Thompson slipped down from sixth to ninth; Farfus recovered to 11th after having started 31st. On lap 6, the Müller were still in a close battle for the lead, while a group of five drivers - Diefenbacher, Mollekens, García, Farfus and Thompson - were fighting for the sixth position. In the Independents' Trophy, Tavano was closely chased by Balzan and Rosenblad.

On the last lap, Mollekens observed the drive-through, and dropped down from 7th to 18th. D. Müller scored his third win of the season, from J. Müller, Gené, Priaulx and Tarquini. Diefenbacher's engine blew at the last corner, and the SEAT driver lost his sixth place to García. Tavano won the Independents Trophy, from Balzan and Rosenblad. Victory in the DPM race went to Winkelhock, with Hürtgen and Funke in second and third.


Farfus zigzags to defend his lead at the start

Farfus was on pole on the reverse grid, while the spot alongside him remained empty as Diefenbacher's SEAT suffered from an engine failure. Giovanardi, Zwart, D'Aste and Harrison also did not start. Rydell and Zanardi, their cars repaired, started from the end of the pit-lane.

Farfus took the lead, and zigzagged to keep García behind; his manouevre resulted in a warning flag. On lap 1, Gené was pushed off at Les Combes, and rejoined at the back. J. Müller overtook Tarquini for second. A collision eliminated Sardelli and Engstler.

The Müllers survive a number of fights and take the lead

On lap 2, J. Müller was chasing Farfus. Coronel led the Independents' Trophy, but was threatened by Rosenblad and Balzan. In DPM, Winkelhock and Hürtgen made the pace, while Hennerici chased Funke for third. On lap 3, Grunert retired from 15th, due to a broken driveshaft. Farfus and J. Müller collided repeatedly at Les Combes. The German lost two positions to Tarquini and Priaulx; and the Stewards awarded a drive-through to Farfus. On lap 4, the Brazilian paid the penalty; J. Müller overtook Tarquini and took the lead, while Priaulx dropped down from third to sixth. The top-seven drivers were within one second. On lap 5, the two leaders were door-to-door into the Eau Rouge, and swapped positions twice. D. Müller took the occasion to steal second place from Tarquini.

BMW Team Deutschland claim another 1-2 finish

On lap 6, García moved up to third, overtaking Tarquini at the Source. On lap 7. Ruokonen went into the gravel, his car damaged after a collision. Rosenblad was struggling to defend his ninth position from Balzan and Tavano. On the last lap, a collision at Les Combes involved Mollekens, Thompson and Priaulx. Coronel benefitted from the situation and moved up to sixth, between Priaulx and Mollekens.

J. Müller imitated his team-mate Dirk, claiming his third win of the season; Dirk finished second and García third. Rosenblad managed to come home second in the Independents Trophy, from Balzan. In DPM, Winkelhock, Hürtgen and Funke repeated the podium of the first race.


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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Andy Priaulx , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Carl Rosenblad , Claudia Hurtgen , Rickard Rydell , Alessandro Balzan , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Salvatore Tavano , Michael Funke , Mario Theissen