Navarra: Series qualifying report

Rigon on pole to win EURO 1,000,000 Superleague Formula by Sonangol points leader Davide Rigon (RSC Anderlecht) took a significant step towards clinching the 2010 title and a prize of EURO 1,000,000 by winning the Pole Shoot-out in the final...

Rigon on pole to win EURO 1,000,000

Superleague Formula by Sonangol points leader Davide Rigon (RSC Anderlecht) took a significant step towards clinching the 2010 title and a prize of EURO 1,000,000 by winning the Pole Shoot-out in the final round of the season at Navarra today.

The 24-year-old Italian set the fastest time of the entire qualifying session, a 1:26.563, in the group phase and then progressed coolly through the knockout stages before beating John Martin (Beijing Guoan) in the final by two tenths of a second.

His only real scare came at the semi-final stage against Franck Perera (Bordeaux) when he was slower in the first sector, only for an error in the final part of the lap to cost the Frenchman and help Rigon go through.

For Martin, another front row start is just reward after he suffered wretched luck in the recent Chinese double-header and a testimony to his cool-headed demeanour after an error in the group phase almost saw him fail to make it to the knockouts.

A spin on his first flying lap left him outside the top four of an extremely-tough Group A but a last-gasp effort with just seconds remaining saw him through. He then won easily in the quarter-finals and came from behind to beat Yelmer Buurman (AC Milan) in his semi.

Buurman boosted his outside title chances with his strongest qualifying performance since the Nurburgring in June and will line up on the second row of the grid in third ahead of Perera.

Craig Dolby (Tottenham Hotspur) couldn't make it past Perera in the quarter-finals but is still right in the midst of the title battle after a strong performance in the groups means he starts fifth on the grid, still in sight of Rigon.

However, the news wasn't so good for the other two drivers fighting for the million euro prize pot, Ben Hanley (Olympiacos) and Max Wissel (FC Basel). Neither made it out of Group A having failed to get an optimum car set up for qualifying and will start Sunday's first race down in 11th and 13th on the grid respectively.

In the quarter-final stage Andy Soucek (Flamengo) was beaten by Rigon but was surprised to even make the knock-out phase after suffering a lack of straight-line speed due to what he suspected may be a engine issue. He will start eighth alongside Alvaro Parente (FC Porto), who was frustrated to lose out to Buurman in his match-up having comfortably topped Group B earlier.

Joining Dolby on row 3 is Frederic Vervisch (Liverpool) who was again satisfied with another impressive qualifying display where he survived the group phase, although he went out to Martin in the last eight.

Tristan Gommendy (Olympique Lyonnais) was unfortunate to miss out on the quarter-finals after Martin's late lap saw him drop from the top four in the competitive Group A, although his time of 1:26.867 would have seen him cruise through Group B.

Spaniards Marcos Martinez (Sevilla) and Maria De Villota (Atletico Madrid) also went out in Group A while Group B claimed the notable scalps of Robert Doornbos (Corinthians), reigning champion Adrian Valles (Sporting Lisbon) and series returnee Esteban Guerrieri (PSV Eindhoven). Home favourite Maxi Cortes (AS Roma) was the other driver who failed to make it through.

Chris van der Drift (Galatasaray) saw his return from injury end in disappointment when a gearbox problem in Free Practice 2 meant he didn't even get to compete in qualifying.

Davide Rigon (RSC Anderlecht): "It's fantastic for me and the team. As soon as I arrived at the track yesterday I saw how motivated they were to do well after China. I'm very thankful to them because they have worked so hard. I always seem to have a good fight with John (Martin) in the Pole Shoot-out. I won in Adria, he won in Portimao, so now I'm back ahead again! Today we showed how fast we are but tomorrow is what counts and we'll push to the maximum to win this title."

John Martin (Beijing Guoan): "I made a silly mistake and spun in the group stage but I gathered it all together and we made it through. The car wasn't quite as fast as it usually is in qualifying but the team have still done a great job because we're quick on old tyres, which is crucial for the races. I'm not involved in the title race so for me there is nothing to lose. I'm just going for the win."

Yelmer Buurman (AC Milan): "I'm happy to be here (in the top four) because it has been a while! Against John (Martin) in the semi-final I made a small mistake in the second sector and lost all the time there. It won't be easy for me to make up the gap on the four guys above me in the championship, but all I can do is my best. I'll try to make up as much ground on them as possible by doing my own thing."

Franck Perera (Bordeaux): "I'm really happy and the team is doing a good job. I just made a mistake against Davide (Rigon) in the final sector and that was it. We'll see tomorrow what we can do. It's a long day because the races are closer together and the weather could also be very important."

-source: superleagueformula.com

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Series SF
Drivers Davide Rigon , Robert Doornbos , Tristan Gommendy , Alvaro Parente , Adrian Valles , Marcos Martinez , Yelmer Buurman , Andy Soucek , Chris van der Drift , Frederic Vervisch , Maximilian Wissel , Esteban Guerrieri , John Martin , Ben Hanley , Craig Dolby , Franck Perera