21 March 2009
Farfus, Priaulx lock-out BMW front row in Mexico
BMW has secured a surprise front row lock-out in qualifying for the second World Touring Car round of the season at Puebla, with Augusto Farfus leading Andy Priaulx.
With the twisty Mexican circuit reputed to be one of SEAT's most competitive venues, BMW had themselves predicted they would struggle to match the Leon TDI in the high altitude surroundings.
However, having gradually closed the gap to their rivals during free practice, both Farfus and Priaulx were on top form during the ten minute shootout to snatch the advantage for BMW ahead of tomorrow's two races.
Prior to the shootout, Farfus had hinted at his potential during the opening 20 minutes of action, the Brazilian setting the quickest time in the session to decide which ten drivers would fight it out for pole position.
However, with three of his BMW team-mates (Alex Zanardi excluded), all five SEATs and Independent runner Felix Porteiro also making it through to the shootout, it took a lap record of 1min 37.682secs for Farfus to stay in control.
Setting the pole position winning time on his first attempt, no other driver could get close to it, even if Gabriele Tarquini did look on course to snatch it away from him at the death when he entered the final sector more than a tenth up on Farfus. However, he would fade in the final few corners to slot in behind Priaulx in third.
Priaulx himself left it until the closing stages to record his best lap, the former champion benefiting from a tow off Sergio Hernandez along the home straight to eventually edge Tarquini by seven hundredths of a second.
Having reaped rewards for their tactics during qualifying in Curitiba, there was less obvious teamwork occurring this time at SEAT, with all five of their drivers completing their laps without any slipstreaming aids from their counterparts. Nonetheless, they will still pose a threat from third, fourth, fifth and sixth, Tarquini ahead of Rickard Rydell, Yvan Muller and Tiago Monteiro.
Jorg Muller made it a good day for the factory BMW team in seventh, while Porteiro produced another notable giant-killing performance in the Proteam 320si to claim eighth, ahead of last year's pole sitter Jordi Gene and his successor at Team Italy-Spain Sergio Hernandez.
Outside the top ten, Chevrolet were unlucky not to have one of their drivers fight it out for a top ten position, with Nicola Larini missing out in 11th by just 0.018secs. Team-mates Rob Huff and Alain Menu will start 13th and 14th respectively.
With Porteiro up on the fourth row, his Independent Trophy rivals face a tough task to match him, Tom Coronel proving his closest competitor down in 15th. He is joined on the eighth row by Stefano D'Aste and will start ahead of Engstler pair Franz Engstler and Kristian Poulsen.
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