Carsport Viper takes pole in Austria

Mike Hezemans and Tom Coronel will start from pole position for Sunday's seventh round of the FIA GT Championship, after Hezemans took the Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper round the Austrian A1-Ring in 1m42.707s, a full second clear of nearest rival, the Kaufmann/Grasser Freisinger Porsche

Carsport Viper takes pole in Austria

The weather has been wet all weekend, and both qualifying sessions took place on a damp track, although varying conditions meant that careful planning and a certain amount of luck were vital in trying to get the best time. However, ten minutes into the first session, the Carsport team were on provisional pole, and with both drivers continuously improving on their times, they never appeared in danger of losing the first position.

"Now we need to do the race," said reigning Formula Nippon champion Coronel. "I think the strategy will have to be simply to stay on the black stuff," he quipped.

Wolfgang Kaufmann created a surprise by putting his Freisinger Porsche 911 GT2 alongside the Carsport Viper for tomorrow's 500 km race, after a last-minute clear lap.

"We always have good results in the rain," said the German former Formula 3 driver. "But this is only qualifying - if we do the same in the race, I'll be really, really happy."

Championship leaders Lister have had a more difficult weekend, with factors such as the weather, their 100 kg penalty weight and a totally new track to team and drivers. These factors contrived to put them out of contention for their usual pole fight. But by the end of the second qualifying session, Julian Bailey was up to third.

"We caught them up - we just needed another set of tyres, but we didn't have time," Bailey explained afterwards. The second Lister Storm, driven by Philippe Favre and Nicolaus Springer, improved from nineteenth in the morning to fifth overall.

The Chrysler Vipers of Paul Belmondo Racing - Lister's main rivals for the Championship - qualified in fourth and sixth places. Boris Derichebourg has been joined by Emmanuel Clérico, while Vincent Vosse races in the 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps - returning for tomorrow's race if possible.

"Our results weren't fantastic, but it's not catastrophic for the race - anything can happen," Derichebourg explained. "The conditions are changing all the time, and it's going to be very difficult to control everything tomorrow."

The rain, as well as closing up the grid, shuffled up the N-GT pack, with Art Engineering emerging as a powerful contender. Shod with their new Pirelli rain tyres, the Italian team's two Porsche 911 GT3 cars were to take the first two places on the N-GT grid, beating usual pole contenders Larbre Competition and RWS into third and fourth. In the first session, the RWS and Art Porsches had their times disallowed, after failing ride-height tests, and this proved an added incentive to pole-setter Constantino Bertuzzi.

The N-GT cars with Dunlop tyres, however, were suffering in the wet, with the G-Force cars eighth and ninth, in spite the help of former Le Mans winner Stephane Ortelli, who is driving with Robert Nearn this weekend.

FIA GT Championship - Round 7 - Austria
Combined Qualifying Times

Pos No Driver Car Time

25 GT Hezemans/Coronel Carsport Chrysler Viper 1m42.707s
3 GT Kaufmann/Grasser Freisinger Porsche GT2 1m43.891s
14 GT Bailey/Campbell Walter Lister Storm 1m43.937s
12 GT Derichebourg/Vosse Belmondo Chrysler Viper 1m44.178s
15 GT Springer/Favre Lister Storm 1m44.195s
11 GT Gosselin/Belmondo Belmondo Chrysler Viper 1m44.283s
29 GT Lafon/Jarier MMI Chrysler Viper1m44.907s
21 GT Cappellari/Matteuzzi Racing Box Chrysler Viper 1m45.233s
4 GT Hane/Palmberger Freisinger Porsche GT2 1m45.429s
1 GT Felbermayr/Felbermayr Chamberlain Chrysler Viper 1m45.732s

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