Alfas Rule Imola



5 September 2004
Alfa Romeo was back in a dominating way on his home ground, before a large and cheering crowd. The AutoDelta red cars finished 1-2-3 in both races, like in Valencia earlier this year, though Augusto Farfus’s was later penalized in the second race. Gabriele Tarquini came home twice in first, and significantly closed the gap from the championship lead.

The Italian driver, who was fourth in the Drivers’ classification, 20 points behind, before Imola, moved up to second and reduced the gap to 7 points only. Dirk Müller retained the lead, while Jörg Müller and Andy Priaulx are now equal in third place, only one point behind Tarquini. The Championship is still wide opened, with four drivers in 8 points, with four rounds to go.

The first race was quite uneventful, nearly anaesthetized by Alfa Romeo supremacy. Tarquini and Giovanardi led from the lights to the flag, and only Farfus’s third place was endangered by Gené, Priaulx and Tavano.

Race 2 was a totally different story, with the BMWs on top of the reverse grid, and the Alfas obliged to fight their way through the field. A number of overtakings thrilled the crowd, until the race turned to drama. After two collisions eliminated J. Müller and Priaulx, a spectacular pile-up in front of the main grandstand involved Zanardi, Tavano and D’Aste, resulting in a safety-car period. Though the race was neutralized for three laps, this phase turned to be crucial for the final result. And it might even influence the title fight because of the additional point earned by D. Müller.

Farfus did not comply with the safety-car procedure, as he let the distance between the Tarquini-Giovanardi duo and his own car exceed the 5-car length. The Stewards imposed him a drive-through penalty which cannot be appealed; because the penalty was given at the end of the race, it was turned into a 30-second time penalty. In the Independents Trophy, Oregon Team’s Salvatore Tavano won the first race, but the hero of the day was Alessandro Balzan, who won the second race in the JAS Motorsport Honda Civic, and also finished sixth overall, scoring his and Honda’s first points of the season. Balzan has now moved to second in the Trophy, 29 points behind Tom Coronel. Tavano’s team-mate, Michele Bartyan, came home seventh in Race 2, also scoring his first championship points.

Imola proved one of the worst weekends of the year for the BMW national teams with third in race two for BMW Team Deutschland’s Dirk Müller being the only podium position for a BMW 320i. Alfa Romeo drivers dominated both races with Gabriele Tarquini and Fabrizio Giovanardi first and second in both races and Augusto Farfus Jr third in race one.

However, the third place for Dirk came late in the day as a thirty second penalty was given to Augusto Farfus Jr for race two. He was in third behind his two team mates and after a safety car period he bunched up the following drivers to allow Tarquini and Giovanardi the chance to get away, an action which the Stewards felt justified a severe time penalty. The penalty dropped him down from third to 14th.

Dirk with 92 points has not only retained his lead in the Drivers’ Championship but has moved slightly ahead of Jörg and Andy who now have the same total with 85 points each. Unfortunately Gabriele Tarquini has now moved into second place with 86 points. While BMW had a bad result, Alfa Romeo still have a lot to do in the Manufacturers’ Championship as they are still 54 points behind.

While race one was fairly processional, race two was very eventful with Dirk being the only BMW national team driver to take the chequered flag. On lap three Andy Priaulx (BMW Team Great Britain) crashed out of race two after a collision with the Alfa Romeo driver Salvatore Tavano. A lap later Jörg Müller (BMW Team Deutschland) and Antonio Garcia (BMW Team Italy-Spain) both retired after an incident with the Alfa Romeo of Augusto Farfus Jr, with the German?s car being so badly damaged that it is likely the team will have to find him a new one for Oschersleben.

However, the biggest accident happened to Alex Zanardi (BMW Team Italy-Spain) who suffered brake failure coming out of the last corner and onto the start/finish line. His car crashed into the wall and then when it bounced back onto the track was hit by two further cars causing the safety car to be deployed. Luckily Alex was unhurt and was even able to joke after the incident. Also involved in this accident was Tom Coronel (Carly Motors), but luckily despite suspension damage his BMW 320i was able to finish the race.

BMW Team Deutschland Team Manager, Charly Lamm, commented after the races: “This has been a very difficult weekend for all the BMW teams. After a bad qualifying we did the best we could in race one and the three championship contenders were able to score points. It was a shame that neither Andy nor Jörg were able to score points in race two due to accidents that were not their faults. Obviously Dirk is the happiest BMW driver as not only did he score points, but he also maintained his championship lead.”

Results and Positions
BMW Team Deutschland – Schnitzer Motorsport
No 42 – Jörg Müller (GER) Qual 11th – Race 1 – 7th – Race 2 – DNF – 40 kilos ballast
No 43 – Dirk Müller (GER) Qual 19th – Race 1 – 8th – Race 2 – 3rd – 40 kilos ballast
BMW Team Great Britain – RBM
No 11 – Andy Priaulx (GBR) Qual 9th – Race 1 – 5th – Race 2 – DNF – 20 Kilos ballast
BMW Team Italy-Spain – Ravaglia Motorsport
No 4 – Alex Zanardi (ITA) Qual 15th – Race 1 – 13th – Race 2 – DNF
No 5 – Antonio Garcia (ESP) Qual 10th – Race 1 – 9th – Race 2 – DNF
BMW Privateer Teams
Carly Motors – No 20 – Tom Coronel (NLD) Qual 14th – Race 1 – 12th – Race 2 – 11th
Proteam M/sport – No 25 – Stefano D’Aste (ITA) Qual 16th – Race 1 – 15th – Race 2 – DNF
Crawford Racing – No 27 – Carl Rosenblad (SWE) Qual 18th – Race 1 – DNF – Race 2 – 10th

Race 1 – 11 laps
1. Gabriele Tarquini (ITA/Alfa Romeo) 22m 08.554s
2. Fabrizio Giovanardi (ITA/Alf Romeo) 22m 09.128s
3. Augusto Farfus Jr (BAR/Alfa Romeo) 22m 15.104s
4. Jordi Gené (ESP/SEAT) 22m 15.615s
5. Andy Priaulx (GBR/BMW 320i) 22m 15.949s
6. Antonio Garcia (ESP/BMW 320i) 22m 16.984s
7. Jörg Müller (GER/BMW 320i) 22m 20.786s
8. Dirk Müller (GER/BMW 320i) 22m 23.222s.

Race 2 – 11 laps
1. Gabriele Tarquini (ITA/Alfa Romeo) 26m 16.027s
2. Fabrizio Giovanardi (ITA/Alf Romeo) 26m 16.736s
3. Dirk Müller (GER/BMW 320i) 26m 19.233s
4. Jordi Gené (ESP/SEAT) 26m 19.854s
5. Rickard Rydell (SWE/SEAT) 26m 20.256s
6. Allessandro Balzan (ITA/Honda) 26m 23.528s
7. Michele Bartyan (AUT/Alfa Romeo) 26m 26.400s
8. Frank Diefenbacher (GER/SEAT) 26m 27.587s

Championship Positions – Drivers
1. Müller D 93
2. Tarquini 86
3. Priaulx 85
2. Müller J 85
5. Giovanardi 62
6. Garcia 43
7. Farfus 35
8. Gené 33
9. Diefenbacher 20
10. Coronel 19
11. Thompson 17
12. Rydell 17
13. Mollekens 9
14. Tavano 6
15. Rangoni 5
16. Balzan 3
17. Zanardi 3
18. Bartyan 2
19. D’Aste 1

1. BMW 224, 2. Alfa Romeo 170, 3. SEAT 68.

Michelin Independents Trophy
1. Coronel 120
2. Balzan 91
3. Tavano 86
4. Rangoni 58
5. D’Aste 58
6. Bartyan 57
7. Rosenblad 54
8. Harrison 25
9. Ruokonen 23
10. Grunert 15
11. Asch 11
12. Klenke 8
13. Zwart P 7
14. Sardelli 5
15. Zwart K 3

Qualifying session
Imola proved to be the perfect track for the BMW national teams’ main opposition, Alfa Romeo. The Italian cars on home ground filled the top three places while the best BMW 320i was that of BMW Team Great Britain’s Andy Priaulx in 9th.

Carrying 40 kilos of ballast hurt the BMW Team Deutschland cars of Jörg Müller and Dirk Müller as they were 11th and 19th respectively. However, this was not the sole reason for a relatively bad session as a red flag came out when Jörg was on his quick lap, while Dirk only completed two flying laps and suffered a gear selection problem.

It was obvious from the first free practice that the Alfa Romeos were going to be quickest, as the high kerbs did not suit the BMW 320i and this is a good track for front wheel drive cars. Home ground for BMW Team Italy-Spain didn’t help that much either, as Antonio Garcia was just behind Andy in tenth and Alex Zanardi was 15th, and neither driver could pin point any particular problem.

Bart Mampaey, Andy Priaulx’s Team Manager at RBM, was not really surprised with the outcome: “The result is not what we would have wanted in the ideal world, but we are not that unhappy as we were realistic about our chances at this track, which we don’t really know that well. Despite carrying twenty kilos of ballast Andy was as high as fourth early on in the session, but then dropped down at the end. He has had bad qualifying sessions before and has still been able to get good results. One very positive thing for the races is that Andy has two new sets of tyres.”

Also suffering at the hands of the Alfa Romeos at Imola was Independents class leader Tom Coronel (Carly Motors) who ended up fifth fastest in this category, while Salvatore Tavano was quickest. Unfortunately for the Dutch privateer team they are reduced to one car for this weekend, as Paulien Zwart will not be racing as she is still suffering from the effects of her Magny Cours accident.