Walter Lechner Jr claimed his second consecutive FIA-GT pole position in Oschersleben today [Saturday], with a lap of 1 minute 23.869 seconds at the wheel of the #2 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7 R.

The young Austrian driver has now been in the top two for the last three races, ever since moving from an N-GT Porsche to the GT class.

"We found a good set-up yesterday, and I am very happy with my time - the car was really good today," Lechner Jr said. With two pole positions earlier in the season for Jean-Marc Gounon, this is the fourth pole for the Konrad Motorsport Saleen.

Alongside him on the grid for tomorrow's eighth round of the 2003 FIA GT Championship will be the #5 Force One Chrysler Viper GTS-R, with Mike Hezemans and Anthony Kumpen hoping to finally finish a race this season.

The team's second car, driven by Philippe Alliot and David Hallyday, will start from fourth place, alongside the #7 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R of Tommy Erdos and Mike Newton, which took third place towards the end of the first qualifying session. This means the front two rows will both have a Saleen ahead of a Viper.

The #15 Lister Storm of Andrea Piccini and David Sterckx was fifth fastest. Both the #23 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello and the #14 Lister Storm of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nathan Kinch set identical times in the first session, but as the Lister set the time shortly before the Ferrari, the #14 will start ahead on the grid, giving an all-Lister Racing third row, ahead of an all-BMS fourth line.

In the N-GT category Andrea Bertolini took pole, having set a time of 1m 27.319s in the morning session, at the wheel of the #52 JMB Racing Ferrari Modena. "The car is very good and fast; I am very happy as we have done a lot of work with Pirelli with the new compound tyres, and along with the new gearbox, the new Marelli system and the new tyres, we have a very fast car," Bertolini said.

The #88 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena of Jamie Davies and Darren Turner was second fastest, with Turner setting a time of 1m 28.111s. Championship leaders Stephane Ortelli and Marc Lieb set the third-best time in their #50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS, with a lap of 1m 28.140s, just 29 thousandths of a second behind second place.

The second TMC Ferrari of Tim Mullen and Kelvin Burt was fourth. Anderstorp winners EMKA Racing were fifth-fastest in the category, ahead of the #57 MENX Ferrari of Tomas Enge and Robert Pergl.

The first 45-minute qualifying session round the 3.667 Oschersleben circuit started off at a frantic pace. Thomas Biagi, in the #23 Ferrari 550 Maranello, was the first to lead the time sheets, with a lap of 1m 24.820s. Lechner Jr., in the #2 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7-R then improved the provisional pole to 1m 24.676s, with three cars setting times under the 1m 25s barrier.

The Force One cars were the next to hit the top, with first Philippe Alliot in the #4 Chrysler Viper setting a time of 1m 24.632s, and then Mike Hezemans in the team's #5 Viper knocking three tenths off with a lap of 1m 24.322s. But they were all shortly to be eclipsed when Lechner Jr lapped in a 1m 23.869s, eight minutes into the session. This time was nearly half a second faster than last year's fastest qualifying time of 1m 24.263s, set by Campbell-Walter in the Lister Storm.

Ten minutes before the end of the session, Erdos in the #7 Saleen improved up to third place with a time of 1m 24.379s. By the end of the session, no-one had been able to come close to Lechner Jr's time, which stood as provisional pole. He was followed by the #5 Force One Chrysler Viper, the #7 Graham Nash Saleen S7-R and the #4 Force One Viper. The two Lister Racing Storms were fifth and sixth, with the best-placed Ferrari the #23 car of Championship leaders Biagi and Bobbi, seventh, having set the same time as the #14 car. The #9 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello, which was so fast in free practice yesterday, could only manage 3 laps due to a transmission problem; the team's #10 car was tenth.

In N-GT, the #61 EMKA Porsche was the fastest early on, with a time of 1m 28.694s. However, by the half-way point, the #52 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena had improved to 1m 27.319s, followed by the #50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche, approximately eight tenths behind. The #88 TMC Ferrari then moved up to second with a lap of 1m 28.111s.

In the second qualifying session the unseasonably hot weather meant that there were very few improvements. However, the #9 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello, which was only 16th overall after the first session due to a broken transmission, immediately knocked a second off its morning time. The car continued to improve, setting the best time of the session with a lap of 1m 25.029s and rising to ninth overall. However, after the end of the session, the #9 Ferrari was to see all its times from the session cancelled, due to not complying with the airbox restrictions, and therefore dropped back down to 16th position on the grid for tomorrow's race.

The other car to improve - by just four thousandths of a second - was the #18 Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper, which had lost some of its morning times due to failing to comply with the weighing procedure.

This left the Championship leaders, Biagi and Bobbi, as the fastest drivers in the second qualifying session, with a time of 1m 26.009s, topping the time sheets for the first time this weekend. They were followed by the #5 Force One Chrysler Viper of Hezemans and Kumpen, who were also second fastest overall. The #10 JMB Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello of Pescatori and Derichebourg set the third-fastest time, followed by the #18 Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper.

The #89 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 360 Modena of Kelvin Burt and Tim Mullen was the fastest N-GT car on the track during the hot second qualifying session. Setting a lap time of 1m 28.455s, the car set the 13th time overall, ahead of the #50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche and the #61 EMKA Racing Porsche 996 GT3-RS.

Tomorrow's race starts at 11.20 am, with the warm-up at 9.10 am [all times local].

 

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