Bruno Coelho goes into qualifying at ETS Spain as the top seed, the Xray driver capitalising on a faster track to top the final round of practice in Madrid. Second fastest in the opening controlled practice, the reigning champion bettered his 3-consecutive lap time by almost 1.3 seconds to top the times ahead of a trio of Infinity drivers lead by Akio Sobue. Fastest in CP1, Marc Rheinard would drop to fourth behind team-mate Naoto Matsukura having only improved his time by quarter of a second. Ronald Volker would complete the Top 6 behind a much improved Yannic Prumper who found 1.9-seconds.
Commenting on the final practice, Coelho said, ‘everything was OK. We didn’t change anything, we just checked over the car and as well as the three laps it felt like it will be good over 5-minutes’. Getting 4-minute practice runs, 2 free and 2 timed, looking to the longer qualifiers, the first of which will run tonight, he pointed out the cooler conditions of Q1 ‘could change the game’. Overall however he said he is ‘feeling confident with the car’ going into the four rounds of qualifying.
With CP1 going ‘not so good’ because his car was ‘too loose’, Sobue said making the rear of his ProtoTC wider and refreshing the shocks had resulted in a better car for second controlled practice, his deficit to Coelho 6/10ths of a second. The Japanese driver said while his 3-laps are OK he said after he is slowing which he feels is down to the car being too consistent and needing to be more aggressive. Planning to tweak his current set-up for Q1, unlike his team-mates who are running ARS, he said he tried it in an earlier practice and didn’t like the feeling.
Not happy with his set-up choice for CP1, Matsukura would copy Rheinard’s set-up for CP2 allowing him to outpace his team-mate. Switching to running ARS, the former World Champion said his Infinity was more stable but after 3-minutes it started to suffer from ‘a little push’. The reigning 1:12 World Champion said he wasn’t sure yet what it would be but he would make a change for Q1 to try lessen the understeer at the end of the run.
‘I rolled just after crossing the loop on the first lap and ended up out in the dust so I missed the chance for the best laps’, explained Rheinard after CP2. He continued, ‘the car still feels good and its been a good start for Infinity wth 3 cars in the Top 4’. With a timing fault delaying the timetable by over an hour, when asked about the issue of shadows on the track for Q1, the Warm-up Race winner said, ‘I think it will be far enough down that there will be no shadows but maybe then we will have the problem of the sun in our eyes’. In terms of set-up for the first qualifier he plans to run his ProtoTC unchanged and ‘check’ how it is over a full 5-minutes.
While looking a little bit sunburnt in the face, Prumper was looking much happier after his final practice. The VBC Racing lead driver said, ‘we made a couple of changes and it went in the right direction so finally I could get a good 3-laps’. With shocks the biggest change to the set-up, he added, ‘the last (of the three laps) was not perfect because of traffic but overall we improved the car a lot and it also had good pace to the end’.
‘Quite a stressful CP2’ was how Volker summed up his final practice attempt. The Yokomo driver said, ‘again the car was loose at the beginning because of tyre prep and I was also distract by a marshal walking which caused me to make a mistake’. He added ‘until the last minute I was not even in the top heat but the tyres & car came in at the end allowing me to get a time to make the top heat’. Coming into the first outdoor event just 1-point off Coelho after his win at ETS Germany, he continued, ‘we need to figure out the issue with the tyre prep so we have no trouble in the opening laps. We also need to check its not set-up related’.
Having struggled in free practice, Alexander Hagberg would set the 7th fastest time. Coming to Spain fresh from winning a fourth 1:12 European Championship title in the Netherlands, the Swede said, ‘Finally we were able to find a set-up to my liking. I am almost back to my basic set-up from last year’. Feeling he is now headed in the right direction with his car, the Xray driver added, ‘maybe its a disadvantage of not testing. It is so competitive these days it shows how important it is to be prepared but hopefully I will be on the pace before the end of the weekend’. Behind Hagberg, Christopher Krapp, Spanish talent David Perez and Naoki Akiyama completed the Top 10. Due to the large size of the the ASOGER track the Top heat will have 12 starters for qualifying with Nicholas Lee and Frederik Südhoff making it in.