A win apiece for Alfa Romeo and BMW in the Belgian Ardennes saw the Championship close up, with six rounds remaining. Nicola Larini narrowly won Race 1 from JÃ¶rg MÃ¼ller and Fredrik Ekblom, while the German driver claimed Race 2 from Rickard...
A win apiece for Alfa Romeo and BMW in the Belgian Ardennes saw the Championship close up, with six rounds remaining. Nicola Larini narrowly won Race 1 from Jörg Müller and Fredrik Ekblom, while the German driver claimed Race 2 from Rickard Rydell and Tom Coronel. Current Championship leader Fabrizio Giovanardi was involved in a collision and finished Race 1 in fifth position. He recovered to lead Race 2, but retired with transmission problems, reducing his leading margin to just ten points. Double Oschersleben winner Dirk Müller was the other big loser of the weekend. Involved in the same accident as Giovanardi, he retired from Race 1 and did not take the start in Race 2.
WEATHER: Rainy with a wet track in the early morning warm up; before the races started, the sun came out to dry the track.
DIRK MÜLLER EMERGES FASTEST AFTER A RAINY WARM UP
The rain changed everything for the FIA ETCC competitors who, for the first time this weekend, had to cope with a wet track. After Jörg Müller (BMW), Rickard Rydell (Volvo) and Nicola Larini (Alfa Romeo) alternated at the top, Dirk Müller eventually emerged as fastest in the wet. The German driver was clocked at 2:49.687 and ousted Larini from the first place; the Italian, who yesterday had set pole position for today's Race One, was timed this morning at 2:49.828. Third in the warm up was Tom Coronel (2:50.061), followed by Rydell (2:50.283), Jörg Müller (2:50.576), an impressive Tom Ferrier (2:51.122) and Fredrik Ekblom (2:51.379). Current Championship leader Fabrizio Giovanardi only completed a few laps, setting the eighth time at 2:51.879. Tommy Rustad blew the engine of his Nissan Primera, forcing him to start Race One from the back of the grid.
RACE ONE: LARINI WINS AFTER A CLOSE FIGHT WITH JÖRG MÜLLER AND EKBLOM
Start: All the 21 cars lined up on the pre-grid, all on slick tyres. Tom Ferrier's Alfa Romeo stopped on the warm up lap with a broken drive-shaft.
From the pole Larini makes a slow start and Jörg Müller manages to squeeze between the two Alfa cars on the front row, to jump into the lead at the Eau Rouge.
Lap 1: At the end of the long straight after the Raidillon, Giovanardi
tries to overtake Jörg Müller on the outside, but at the chicane he
drives on the grass and spins; he rejoins in fourth position. Behind him
a collision eliminates the BMW cars of Gené and Dirk Müller, as well as
Tavano's Honda Civic. Cayrolle drives in the gravel trap at Blanchimont,
but rejoins. Both De Simone and Buncombe retire with broken clutches.
Jörg Müller is leading, closely chased by Larini and Ekblom.
top-ten positions: 42 - 2 - 10 - 1 - 60 - 22 - 19 - 21 - 14 - 11
Lap 2: Sardelli spins off the track at Raidillon and retires from a
excellent seventh position. Rydell overtakes Giovanardi for fourth. The
Italian driver is chased by Corthals, Huisman, Rustad, Ruberti and
Cayrolle. Both Rustad and Hanson manage to overtake Ruberti, who slips
down to tenth. Corthals overtakes Giovanardi for fifth.
top-ten positions: 42 - 2 - 10 - 60 - 22 - 1 - 21 - 11 - 61 - 14
Lap 3: Larini is stuck to the tail of Jörg Müller's car. Huisman loses
his seventh position after receiving a stop-and-go penalty for crossing
the white line at the start. Rustad, Ruberti, Cayrolle and Coronel gain a
position each when Hanson slips down to 11th.
top-ten positions: 42 - 2 - 10 - 60 - 22 - 1 - 11 - 14 - 16 - 7
Lap 4: Larini is more successful than his team-mate Giovanardi in
attacking the leader. Under braking for the Kemmel chicane, the Italian
overtakes Jörg Müller and jumps into the lead. Giovanardi is chasing
Corthals for fifth. Rustad slips down from seventh to tenth. Huisman
retires with electric problems.
top-ten positions: 2 - 42 - 10 - 60 - 22 - 1 - 14 - 16 - 7 - 11
Lap 5: Ekblom is putting pressure on Jörg Müller. Hanson overtakes Rustad
top-ten positions: 2 - 42 - 10 - 60 - 22 - 1 - 14 - 16 - 7 - 61
Lap 6: Jörg Müller starts to threaten Larini's leadership. He makes an
attempt at the Kemmel chicane, but Larini resists. Giovanardi passes
Corthals for fifth position. Villamil retires with engine problems.
top-ten positions: 2 - 42 - 10 - 60 - 1 - 22 - 14 - 16 - 7 - 61
Lap 7: Jörg Müller maintains pressure on Larini, while Ekblom loses
contact with the first two.
top-ten positions: 2 - 42 - 10 - 60 - 1 - 22 - 14 - 16 - 7 - 61
Lap 8: Larini scores his fourth win of the season, only 0.2 seconds ahead
of Jörg Müller, with Ekblom in third a further 0.4 seconds behind. Rydell
and Giovanardi are classified fourth and sixth respectively, while
Belgian newcomer Corthals finishes sixth, scoring his first ETCC point on
final positions: 2 - 42 - 10 - 60 - 1 - 22 - 14 - 16 - 7 - 61
RACE TWO: JÖRG MÜLLER STRIKES BACK FOR BMW
Four cars are placed at the back of the grid after the teams request neutralization of the parc fermé to work on repairs: the Ravaglia Motorsport BMW cars of Gené and De Simone, Ferrier's Dart Alfa Romeo and Dirk Müller's Schnitzer BMW. Finally Dirk Müller and Tavano cannot take the start because their cars were too badly damaged in the Race One collision and De Simone because the team did not manage to replace the clutch. Villamil also does not rejoin the grid, due to engine problems. Local hero Corthals lines up on pole position with Giovanardi alongside him.
Start: Corthals takes the lead at the start from Giovanardi, Jorg Müller and Rydell.
Lap 1: On the straight after the Raidillon both Giovanardi and Jörg
Müller overtake Corthals, who brakes too late at the chicane, cuts on the
grass and collide with Larini and Ekblom. They all retire. Both
Bernardoni and Buncombe go off at the Liège corner, Bernardoni remaining
stuck in the gravel. Giovanardi leads the race but he is closely chased
by Jörg Müller and Rydell. Huisman retires with persisting misfire.
top-ten positions: 1- 42 - 60 - 7 - 16 - 11 - 14 - 5 - 61 - 20
Lap 2: Rustad's engine starts having problems and the Norwegian driver
slips back from sixth to ninth. Gené moves up to sixth overtaking
Ruberti. The Giovanardi-Jörg Müller-Rydell trio is contained within 0.7
seconds with Coronel following them in fourth and Cayrolle right behind.
top-ten positions: 1- 42 - 60 - 7 - 16 - 5 - 14 - 61 - 11 - 20
Lap 3: Jörg Müller is under attack from Rydell and Giovanardi manages to
build up a narrow margin. But at the end of the lap Jörg Müller closes
again on him and the cross the line with a difference of 0.019 seconds.
Ferrier overtakes Rustad for ninth. Sardelli is given a stop-and-go
penalty for jumping the start.
top-ten positions: 1- 42 - 60 - 7 - 16 - 5 - 14 - 61 - 20 - 11
Lap 4: Rydell is still chasing Giovanardi and Jörg Müller. Gené is
attacking Cayrolle's fifth place. Rustad retires with engine problems
and Sardelli moves up to tenth.
top-ten positions: 1- 42 - 60 - 7 - 16 - 5 - 14 - 61 - 20 - 19
Lap 5: Jörg Müller manages to overtake Giovanardi under braking for the
Kemmel chicane and jumps into the lead.
top-ten positions: 42 - 1 - 60 - 7 - 16 - 5 - 14 - 61 - 20 - 19
Lap 6: Jörg Müller stretches his leading margin, while Coronel reduces
his gap to Rydell. Cayrolle spins at the Bus Stop chicane, handing the
fifth position to Gené. The Frenchman is also passed by Ruberti and
top-ten positions: 42 - 1 - 60 - 7 - 5 - 14 - 61 - 16 - 20 - 19
Lap 7: Just before the end of the lap, Giovanardi slows down and retires
with a transmission failure. Rydell and Coronel inherit second and third
top-ten positions: 42 - 60 - 7 - 5 - 14 - 61 - 16 - 20 - 19 - 1
Lap 8: Jörg Müller claims his second win of the season, from Rydell.
Coronel finishes third, his first podium result in the Championship.
Gené, Ruberti and Hanson finish fourth, fifth and sixth respectively,
scoring the remaining points. Sardelli is black flagged for not observing
final positions: 42 - 60 - 7 - 5 - 14 - 61 - 16 - 20 - 1 - 19
Nicola Larini, nr 2 GTA Team Nordauto: "The first race was difficult as I did not have enough speed on the straight to make a gap. Without the 20 kg penalty weight, I am wondering where Jörg Müller would have been... In the second race, I was good in the straight but some unprofessional drivers hit me on the doors. I lost a big opportunity."
Jörg Müller, nr 42 BMW Team Deutschland: "The 20 kg penalty weight did not really affect me. Rickard Rydell is the only one who should have tears in his eyes as his car is not fast enough. I am very happy with this result as it was nearly maximum points. In the first race, it was impossible to overtake Nicola in a fine way. Luckily, our mirrors are at different heights as otherwise, neither of us would have any mirrors left.... I am really starting to enjoy racing in the FIA ETCC - it is good fun. In the second race, I had a very good start and I came immediately up from 5th to 3rd position."
Fredrik Ekblom, nr 10 BMW Team Belgium: "My team being Belgian, it was a very important race for us. I was careful in the first race to score points and to start in a good position in the second race. But in the second race, I lost the clutch at the start and that was it.... In the first race, I was chasing Jörg but he was quicker in some sections and I was quicker in others. Also, there were a few yellow flags when I had the opportunity to overtake.... My team told me to be conservative and to take third."
Rickard Rydell, nr 60 Volvo S60 Racing Team: "In the second race, I had a very good fight. I was quite slow on the straights however and therefore, I had no chance ! The car was better in the second race and I was quite pleased when Giovanardi went off. I got the second place on the podium for free. I thought that Fredrik Ekblom had won the race, so it would have been a Swedish 1-2, but then I saw it was Jörg."
Tom Coronel, nr 7 Carly Motors: "The first race was a mess in the first corner. I got hit from behind and then the car felt very bad. In the second race, I had a very good start but in the chicane, Alfas were flying everywhere ! I was trying to catch Richard Rydell to take the third step on the podium as this race is so close to Holland and there are so many friends and partners from Carly Motors here. There should be more podiums this season as we are testing a lot at Zandvoort. The beginning of the season was a bit difficult as our team is a merge of two different teams, but things are better now."
Pierre-Yves Courthals, nr 22 Carly Motors: " It was really great to start from pole for the second race, but it's a shame the way things turned out. I went slightly over the grass under braking for Les Combes, and when I came back on, Larini hit me. I don't think he had much choice about the matter, it was one of those things. But I was really pleased with the first race, I avoided a lot of tricky situations, especially at the first braking for Les Combes, but it all went well and I got past a number of cars which were having problems, and tried to follow my line. I did the best I could, so to score a point in my first race is great. I really enjoyed my first races in the ETCC but I think I have a lot of work to make the podium. It's necessary to test a lot, to get to know the car really well."
Paolo Ruberti, nr 14 AGS Motorsport: "The weekend did not start well for us but our bad luck finished with the gearbox I broke yesterday in qualifying. Today, I made good starts in both races. I managed to avoid all the collisions, and there were many today ! This enabled me to finish 7th in the first race. Race 2 was even better. I was involved in the first lap collision but then I recovered very well and I had a good fight with Gené. In some sections of the track, I was faster than him. I did not manage to overtake him but I am happy with my 5th place".
Fabrizio Giovanardi, nr 1 GTA Racing Team Nordauto: "I am very upset because, as in Oschersleben, I was involved in a first lap accident. I had taken the lead when Jörg Müller pushed me off. My competitors are doing everything to make me lose points and the Championship lead. The result is that now my lead has been cut down to 10 points. In the second race, it was difficult to maintain the lead, probably because one of my dampers had been damaged in the collision with Jörg Müller and something finally broke in the transmission. The only positive thing is that Larini is still second behind me. We will work together to let Alfa Romeo win the title."