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Kral and Arden denied Abu Dhabi Podium.

Josef Kral and the Arden International team were denied a podium finish during the feature race of the season finishing GP2 Final at Abu Dhabi, after being spun out of contention at the first corner.

Having lined up third after Friday’s qualifying session, the Czech racer was ahead of Dani Clos heading into the first corner but he was on the outside line and the two cars touched as they attempted to take the corner two abreast.

Kral was spun out of contention and dropped to the rear of the field, where he then had to restrict the damage on his race.

He managed to recover to fifteenth position before more contact, this time with GP3 graduate Nigel Melker. He suffered front wing damage in the collision and despite racing on for a few laps with the damage, he was then forced to pit for repairs and he finished a lap down in twentieth position.

“I got a good start and thought I was in a strong position to get ahead of Dani Clos,” explained Kral. “I couldn’t see that he had Luiz Razia to his inside, though, so the situation was a bit more cramped than I realised. I tried to move left, but Clos was coming to the right and we touched, which caused me to spin and damaged my rear suspension. After that I pushed as hard as I could and gained a few positions after my pit stop, but then I came up against Nigel Melker. He was very aggressive and I ended up losing part of my front wing. I continued to drive as quickly as I could, but then I had to pit again and the day turned into a bit of a disaster.

“There are no pit stops in tomorrow’s race and there is no chance to gain a strategic advantage, but I’ll do what I can to make up ground from a lowly grid position.”

GP2 debutant and team-mate Simon Trummer had a solid opening lap as he moved up to eighteenth from his starting position of twenty second and was able to lap consistently alongside the lower end of the midfield until his race came to a premature end after a collision with Jake Rosenzweig.

Trummer is looking to learn from his race ending mistake but admits that he faces an uphill task in the second Abu Dhabi race: “The race began well enough, but the balance of my car changed on the second set of tyres and I lost front-end grip. That’s partly why I made a mistake and crashed out at Turn Eight. It hasn’t been the greatest of starts to my GP2 career, but I’ll learn from it and move on. I face an uphill battle tomorrow, but I’ll do the best I can.”

Leimer Secures Abu Dhabi Feature Race Honours

Fabio Leimer secured the feature race honours in the non Championship Abu Dhabi race from Pole Position, securing a dominant victory from Caterham Team AirAsia’s Luiz Razia and Jolyon Palmer, who secured his first GP2 Points finish with a podium finish for Barwa Addax Team.

Swiss driver Leimer got the perfect start in his Racing Engineering car while fellow front row starter Dani Clos (Rapax) made a slower getaway and soon found himself in between Josef Kral (Arden International) and Razia – Clos saw his race end at T1 while Kral spun.

This incident allowed Razia and Palmer the chance to chase down Leimer out front – his pace, however, was hard for Palmer to match and he had to keep his eyes on what was happening behind as Esteban Gutierrez (Lotus ART) was on a charge, having lined up eighth.

Gutierrez was making up for a poor qualifying performance but his hopes of a podium finish were dashed after having to make an unscheduled pit stop for repairs to be made to his damaged rear wing, having been collected by Stefano Coletti (Scuderia Coloni) in the first corner.

Leimer was able to maintain a good gap up at the front and this meant that Razia’s only hope of securing the race lead was during the pit stops. Leimer pitted two laps later than Razia and the Swiss driver rejoined the track second, ahead of Razia but behind Palmer, who pitted a lap later and this gave the Racing Engineering driver the lead once again.

Behind the top two drivers, Palmer had a lonely first stint was soon holding off iSport International’s Marcus Ericsson – the Swedish driver had started down in thirteenth position but having made a perfect getaway, he was soon up to eighth and his pace enabled him to move up to fourth after his pit stop on lap thirteen.

Ericsson continued to push until the chequered flag but it wasn’t enough and Palmer was able to hold on to him maiden GP2 podium finish.

At the flag, Leimer secured the victory and maximum points – he set the fastest lap of the race on lap twenty three – ahead of Razia and Palmer, while the top eight was completed by Ericsson, Kevin Ceccon (Scuderia Coloni) and three GP3 graduates, Tom Dillmann (iSport International), Antonio Felix da Costa (Ocean Racing Technology) from fifteenth on the grid and James Caado (Lotus ART) – Calado will start tomorrows sprint race from Pole Position.

Ceccon and Coletti Secure Top Ten Starts in Abu Dhabi

Scuderia Coloni started the GP2 Final at Abu Dhabi with a good result in qualifying as both Kevin Ceccon and Stefano Coletti finished inside the top ten and line up on rows four and five.

Had the red flag not been shown with four minutes remaining, the result could have been even better for the team – the top eighteen runners were covered by a second at the flag.

The stoppage affected both Ceccon and Coletti – both drivers were on course to improve their grid positions and Ceccon was on for a front row start having set some storming sector times.

Once the track went live for the final four minutes, both drivers went out to improve their position but with the amount of traffic out on track, neither driver could improve – leaving Auto GP Champion Ceccon seventh and Coletti tenth.

Paolo Coloni believes that the teams’ race pace will mean that they can improve on their grid positions and they are aiming to finish on top in the two race non-Championship finale: “Being so damaged by the red flag was a pity, but we aren’t too worried because the race will be long and both our drivers have a pace that is much better than what this qualifying session is telling.

“Ceccon’s split times were particularly impressive, he even had the best third sector overall, so with a good race management tomorrow there’s no limit to what we could achieve. Besides this, we have to remember that this GP2 Finale is made of two races: our aim is to score more points than everybody else at the end of the weekend, and we will do our best to achieve that.”

Trident Racing Suffer Disappointing Qualifying.

Trident Racing will line up nineteenth and twenty first after qualifying for the season closing GP2 Final at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, the non Championship event which supports the penultimate round of the 2011 FIA Formula One World Championship.

The team, with Julian Leal and Stephane Richelmi driving the two cars saw their weekend start with Free Practice and for Leal, his session was compromised as he had an off track moment which cost him valuable track time.

This meant that he had to make up for lost time in qualifying and the session was interrupted with four minutes remaining after a car stopped out on track and forced the session to be stopped.

Once live again, the sheer amount of traffic on track meant that nobody was able to improve and this meant that the two Trident cars finished nineteenth and twenty first fastest.

Leal admits that his Practice incident has affected his day but he isn’t dissatisfied with how qualifying went: “My day has been largely jeopardized by an off-track exit that virtually ended my practice run after just a few minutes. I started qualifying without many references and in the end, all considered; I wasn’t really dissatisfied with how it went”

Richelmi, who made his GP2 debut at Monza with the team as a stand in for Stefano Coletti wasn’t pleased with how qualifying went for him: “This qualifying session hasn’t been easy at all. With the first set of tires I faced a slowing down car and I lost the chance to clock a good laptime in the last few corners. Then with the second set there was an awful lot of traffic on-track, and I just couldn’t complete a whole clean lap. I hope for better luck on race day because this is a track that offers many passing opportunities.”

The first race of the weekend is due to start at 9am CET, with a thirty one lap duration while the second race will start at 10:30am CET, with the race due to be run over twenty two laps.

Razia Qualifies Inside GP2 Top 4.

Caterham Team AirAsia had a mixed day ahead of the Non-Championship GP2 Final at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi as regular driver Luiz Razia finished inside the top four while American racer Alexander Rossi finished fifteenth fastest ahead of tomorrow’s feature race.

Razia, who completed twenty three laps in qualifying set his best time on his first set of tyres to finish just three tenths of a second off Pole Position, and a position on the second row of the grid.

Speaking about qualifying, Razia said: “The car felt very good in the first stint and I was able to push straight out of the box but if I am honest I am a little disappointed as I felt I could have got another couple of tenths out of it and had pole position. In the second half the session was disrupted with a red flag and with just one lap left after the track went green the tyres were just not ready. The track surface differed a lot this afternoon – The F1 rubber helped in the first outing but then I think only one or two people improved on their second set of tyres. With regards to the tyre choice for this weekend I think it is good; I didn’t feel much degradation so although I would like to be on the front row I am happy. It’s a good qualifying result, we just need to push, have a good strategy and fight for the race win. Let’s do it!”

GP2 rookie Rossi saw his qualifying session hampered with a technical issue from Free Practice, which meant that he lost out on valuable track time. Qualifying then saw him be in the wrong place at the wrong time as the red flags came out while he was on his fastest lap of the session, and once the track went live once again he was unable to better his best time and lines up down in fifteenth position.

The American racer said after qualifying: “My practice session was quite disjointed so although my first run in qualifying was clear my lack of pace was down to the fact I still had no real reference points and I was still trying to find my way. On the second set of tyres I set my fastest first two sectors but there was a red flag and after that only had time for one lap to put everything together. I am frustrated but we’ll see what tomorrow brings.  The Pirelli rear tyres seem to go away quite quickly but it is the same for everyone so it will all be about protecting the tyres and whoever can do that the best will get the best results.”

“We qualified P4 and P15 so I have mixed feelings about the session,” explains Team Manager Phill Spencer. “We had a slight problem with the throttle on Alexander’s cars this morning which we fixed in time for qualifying but unfortunately he lost some track time. Both cars were on their fastest laps when the red flag came out but it seemed Luiz was making the most of every opportunity and was really happy with the car.

“All in all I am pleased for Luiz and a little disappointed for Alexander as we all know he is capable of a much better qualifying result. We will fight from where we start tomorrow – a podium is definitely in our reach and as long as we can make some progress I will be happy.”

For Humphrey Corbett, Caterham Team AirAsia Chief Engineer, the session didn’t go according to plan as he explains: “Qualifying didn’t go quite according to script; I was expecting both cars to be up there but at least Luiz Razia proved the car is capable of qualifying at the front.

“Alexander unfortunately had a lot of traffic and was blocked on a very quick lap after the red flag, he was up on both his sectors so it was a shame he wasn’t able to have a clear lap – he was just very unlucky. Alexander didn’t seem to have the grip on his first set of tyres so we will have to look at that.

“As for tomorrow anything is possible, Alexander is disappointed but he is capable of passing other cars so at the very least if we can get him up to P8 to start on pole for Sunday’s race that would be perfect – that and a podium finish for Luiz. It is all very achievable.”

Leimer Secures Pole for Racing Engineering in GP2 Final.

Racing Engineering secured the perfect start to the non-Championship, season concluding GP2 final at Abu Dhabi as Swiss driver Fabio Leimer secured Pole Position for the Spanish outfit.

The opening day of the GP2 final at the Yas Marina circuit took place under dry and sunny weather conditions and the morning free practice session saw the teams’ drivers, Leimer and Nathanael Berthon, immediately on the pace.

At the end of the morning session, Leimer was second fastest with the time he had set with fifteen minutes remaining and he took his morning practice form into qualifying, where on his first attempt, he went fourth fastest.

The best was yet to come from the Swiss racer, as on his second qualifying run towards the end of the session, he bettered his original time by half a second to move to the top of the times. His 1m49.363 wasn’t bettered by anyone else in the field during the closing stages.

Leimer said after qualifying: “Everything went really perfect. We already saw we were quick during free practice and that everything would be possible in qualifying. I also knew that I myself could still go quicker. In qualifying everything fell into place and I would like to pass a big thank you on to the team as they gave me a really, really good car. I am really happy as it was actually my last possible lap when I set the fastest time. After that we had the red flag and there were no possibilities to improve anymore. I am also really happy as this is my first pole position. Now we will see what’s possible for tomorrow’s race, but the most important thing is to start in front. I am really, really happy.”

Team-mate Berthon ended the free practice session seventh fastest and within half a second of Leimer’s time. Come qualifying, the French driver didn’t have the same luck.

He was close to the top ten after his first run but his second run saw him gain a few hundredths of a second, before the red flags were shown. Once the track went live, Berthon was unable to improve and thus finished seventeenth overall.

Berthon was pleased with how Free Practice went but not so happy with qualifying, as he explains: “Free practice was really good today. I was not pushing to the maximum and therefore it was not so bad. In qualifying I didn’t have any clear lap, but I guess it was the same for everyone. I have to push more in the next qualifying, if there is another race in the future. I am not satisfied with today’s qualifying result, but the lap was not terrible and I am not so far away. I am sure it will be better in the race.”

With qualifying being a close run thing – Berthon in seventeenth was within a second of Leimer’s session topping time – tomorrow’s race is set to be spectacular and with Leimer up at the front, he is expected to be one of the favourites.

Racing Engineering President, Alfonso de Orleans-Borbon is pleased with how the day went for the team: “Another incredible performance from Fabio. His final attempt for pole was the right one and he was able to pull it off. When you need the best of him, he can deliver. What a talent, especially with such a strong line-up of drivers this weekend. As for Nathanaël, sadly traffic and some small mistakes did not allow him to show his full potential as in testing in Barcelona and this morning. Although, I am not too worried since I think tomorrow he will show his full potential and plough through the field. He has the talent to do it. Once again, I want to thank everyone in the team for a wonderful job. Now let’s get ready for tomorrow, where it really counts.”

Kral, Trummer for GP2 Finale with Arden.

Arden International has today announced that Josef Kral and GP3 Series graduate Simon Trummer will be the drivers for the team during the GP2 Finale at Yas Marina this weekend, 12/13 November.

Czech Republic driver Kral has been with the team since the start of the season, having driven for the team in both the GP2 Asia and GP2 Main Series campaigns and he secured points in both Championships, as well as a podium finish at Spa-Francorchamps.

The last time Kral visited the Yas Marina circuit, he finished in the points in the points scoring positions and on the podium.

Kral said about the announcement: “I am very happy to be back in the team where I raced all season. I hope that we can build on the experience what we gained throughout the season and hopefully turn in to some good results in Abu Dhabi.”

Trummer spent the 2011 campaign racing in GP3, for the MW Arden outfit and during the two post season tests; he secured some successful results and proved himself within a GP2 car.

The opportunity to race for Arden in the GP2 finale is a season highlight for Trummer, as he explains: “It is definitely my season highlight to race with such a great team as Arden in Abu Dhabi! I’m so happy that I have this chance! After a great test I feel really comfortable with the car and in the team. I feel like I have raced for them all my career, so I will give my best for do a good job and I hope we will are successful!”

As announced by the GP2 series organisers, the trip to Yas Marina is for a one-off non championship event alongside the penultimate round of the 2011 FIA Formula One World Championship.

The unique event will see all thirteen teams take part in the event and Pirelli, the official tyre supplier to GP2 and GP3 have offered a financial reward to the top two GP3 series graduates. Trummer is eligible for this reward.

Garry Horner announced that he is pleased with the teams’ line up for the Abu Dhabi trip: “I am pleased that both Josef and Simon will be racing with us in Abu Dhabi. It is great to continue our relationship with Josef into this event at Yas Marina, where he has had successful results both in testing and racing. Having tested Simon in both the GP2 post-season tests with good results, we are pleased to give Simon the opportunity to move up into a GP2 car and stay within the Arden team.”

WTCC Confirms Suzuka East for WTCC Race Of Japan.

Picture Credit: cronicasportiva.ro

The Japanese round of the 2011 FIA World Touring Car Championship will move to Suzuka for 2011, after Okayama hosted the races for the last three years.

It has today been confirmed that the field will not use the full 5.8km Grand Prix layout as it is believed the layout wouldn’t favour the Touring Car style of racing with the long straights and the lap length would be restricted to nine laps.

Suzuka has three useable layouts – the Grand Prix circuit, the East Circuit and the West Circuit. The WTCC will use the 2.2km East Circuit, which means that the race distance will be a twenty-three lap race instead of a nine lap race is the Grand Prix circuit was used.

The reason for the switch is to satisfy the fans who go to see the races as well as the cars – however, are they forgetting other circuits which are just as long?

Macau, the famous Chinese enclave is a 6.2km track with average lap times of 2 minutes 30 seconds while Monza, in Italy is 5.8km’s long and is a nine lap race – the average lap time there is about 2 minutes per lap.

The Czech Republic round, held at Brno is a ten lap race around a 5.4km circuit.

The shorter the track may mean more laps but does it increase on track action and fan interest? I have my doubts, yes the fans want to see the cars the optimum amount of times during a race but they don’t want to see boring, processional races, they want to see cars overtaking, looking slightly worse for wear.

It is a fine balance between having boring races and having shorter races with more incidents – maybe the FIA should look at how the BTCC works and take a note of the BTCC way of doing things.

What is the point of a World Championship if the competitors, the best in the business can’t test their abilities on the best tracks in the world? 2.2km’s of Suzuka isn’t going to test their abilities – let them race the full 5.8km’s, which is a challenge.

In a dream world, the WTCC wouldn’t visit places like Porto, the street circuit but visit Abu Dhabi or Sakhir – proper race tracks where overtaking could be possible in a Touring Car.

Yes, I may moan about the BTCC using the Indy circuit at Brands Hatch as I find it a boring, 2 straights, 4 corner layout and the same with the Silverstone National circuit for the same reasons.

What would my dream WTCC Calendar look like?

  1. Interlagos, Brazil – Curitiba gets boring after a while, Interlagos is one of the world’s best tracks.
  2. Laguna Seca, USA – The WTCC needs to break into America and what better circuit than Laguna Seca.
  3. Monza, Italy – Leave Monza as it is, yes it may only be a nine lap race but it can produce some good races.
  4. Brno, Czech Republic – Brno can stay as it is one of the best tracks on the WTCC calendar.
  5. Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium – Replace Zolder with Spa and let the WTCC field test their abilities at one of Europe’s finest tracks.
  6. Donington Park, UK – the WTCC switches from Brands Hatch to Donington for 2011 and it can stay as it is a great track.
  7. Oschersleben, Germany – touch one for Germany but Oschersleben can stay as it is a good track and can produce good races.
  8. Portimao, Portugal – great track, produces some good racing when the WTCC visited in 2010.
  9. Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi – it may not produce good Formula One races but for the Aussie V8’s, it does and Touring Cars would be great there.
  10. Fuji, Japan – a short but punchy track which could prove very popular and a mile long start/finish straight would provide plenty of passing opportunities.
  11. Guangdong, China – this track can stay as it makes its debut in 2011.
  12. Macau, Macau – even if it is only nine laps per race, it is the ultimate driver challenge and a perfect way to round off a WTCC season.