Sevilla FC Driver Marcos Martinez claimed his first ever Pole position today for race one of the Superleague Formula at Brands Hatch tomorrow. Martinez beat Beijing Guoan driver John Martin by just two hundredths of a second in the pole position shoot out to snatch first place on the grid in a close run battle.
The qualifying session was always going to be tight after both practice sessions showed, with the top 10 drivers being separated by less than a second. The draw for the qualifying rounds threw up some interesting matchups, with five of the top six championship drivers placed in group B together, giving a few teams down the pecking order in group A chance of a good grid place for the first race.
Group A consisted of the last round Super Final winner Davide Rigon in the RSC Anderlecht car along with Athletico Madrid, Bordeaux, Sevilla, Sporting Lisbon, Galatasaray, Corinthians, Beijing Guoan and Flamengo with Brit Duncan Tappy behind the wheel. This left home favourite Craig Dolby in the Tottenham Hotspur car in the same group as Championship leader Yelmer Buurman of AC Milan. Joining them was the third British driver James Walker with Liverpool, Olympiacos, AS Roma, PSV Eindhoven, Lyon, FC Porto and FC Basel.
It was the top four drivers from the first group who all progressed with times under the 1minute 14 seconds barrier and split by just 0.149 of a second. John Martin was quickest, ahead of Martinez, Virgin F1 team reserve driver Andy Soucek of Sporting Lisbon in third and Bordeaux driver Frank Montagny taking the last quarter final spot. After hitting the tyre wall at Druids in second practice, Davide Rigon struggled in qualifying and failed to make it through to the knock out stages.
Meanwhile in Group B it was a day of mixed fortunes for the home clubs, with last year's champions Liverpool struggling, James Walker only managed eighth fastest in the group ahead of Frank Perera in the Lyon car on their return to the series after missing the last round. However, it was Craig Dolby who dominated and guided the Tottenham Hotspurs car to the top of the timesheets with the fastest time of both groups. Following Dolby into the knock out stages were, Chris van der Drift in the Olympiacos car, Championship Leader Buurman and Julien Jousse of AS Roma.
Quarter final one saw Dolby paired with Frank Montagny, a match up which Dolby eased through with a comfortable margin of 0.807 seconds. John Martin had an even easier quarter final as Julien Jousse suffered mechanical trouble on his flying lap and ended up parking up on the side of the circuit before Hawthorn bend. Andy Soucek beat Chris van der Drift in the third pairing and the last quarter final saw Yelmer Buurman run wide at Paddock Hill bend and visit the gravel before rejoining the track, leaving Marcos Martinez to take a comfortable win.
In the first of the semi finals, it was Martinez who produced a stunning lap to beat Craig Dolby by a quarter of a second, who despite being British, had never raced on the GP loop at Brands Hatch before thanks to predominantly racing in Belgium in his early career. John Martin continued to impress on a circuit he likes a lot by beating Andy Soucek in the second Semi Final leaving a somewhat surprising Final between the Australian and the Spaniard Martinez.
It was a close run final between Beijing Guoan and Sevilla, vying for the all important pole position. Unfortunately, a slight mistake at Surtees by Martin gave Martinez a very slight advantage which he held on to and took the win by just two hundredths of a second.
A delighted Martinez told the waiting media afterwards, “This is a very special moment for me. We had a lot of bad luck at the beginning of the season and lots of problems, but now we are on pole and we have a really fast car. This is my first time at Brands Hatch, but already this is one of my favourite circuits! I love fast, flowing tracks like this one and I think we have a set-up that really suits them too. It's not easy to win a Superleague Formula race, but I'll concentrate on making a good start tomorrow and then just push and push!”
John Martin was left to reflect, saying “I'm a little bit disappointed because I messed up going into Surtees in the final, so to only miss out on pole by two hundredths is a bit frustrating! Second is still good though and for sure we have got a really good race car – we showed that in practice where we were quick on old tyres. Brands Hatch is a very special place and this circuit as always been one of my strongest, so hopefully tomorrow will be good to us.”
After today's action, the drivers will line up on tomorrows grid like this:
1. Martinez - Sevilla 2. Martin - Beijing Guoan 3. Soucek - Sporting Lisbon 4. Dolby - Tottenham Hotspur 5. Buurman - AC Milan 6. Van der Drift - Olympiacos 7. Jousse - AS Roma 8. Montagny - Bordeaux 9. Wissel - FC Basel 10. Gommendy - Galatasaray 11. Karthikeyan - PSV Eindhoven 12. Tappy - Flamengo 13. Parente - FC Porto 14. Rigon - RSC Anderlecht 15. Walker - Liverpool 16. Doornbos - Corinthians 17. Perera - Olympique Lyonnais 18. De Villota - Athletico Madrid