MONZA Italy: Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair clinched an impressive top 10 qualifying position in a tense session for the eighth round of the Porsche Mobil 1 Super Cup at Italy’s Autodromo Nazionale Monza on Saturday.
The Lechner Racing Team Middle East driver was running as high as sixth in the first half of the 30-minute session and was still classified in eighth with less than two minutes to run after drivers had pitted for tyre changes.
But three of his rivals managed to set fast lap times in the closing seconds and the Omani was pushed down to 11th with a best tour of 1min 50.324sec. But the qualifying times set by rival Julien Andlauer were discounted after post-race scrutineering when it came to light that the spoiler on the left-front wheel arch had been mounted incorrectly. The outcome lifted Al Zubair back into 10th on the grid.
Series leader Michael Ammermüller shadowed Mattia Drudi for much of the session, but snatched pole position with a fastest run of 1min 49.551sec with seconds to spare. Thomas Preining qualified in second and Drudi was third. Only five drivers managed to break the 1min 50sec barrier.
Al Zubair said: “I was happy with this. Monza was the only track we did not test on and I thought we might struggle at the beginning. I had a strong first set and a good second set and we should be happy with it.
“Hopefully I can move forward even more in the race. I think it is forecast to be dry for the race. We tested in both (conditions) now. To be honest I don’t mind what the conditions are like. The goal is a top 10 finish as usual.”
Preining led 30 rivals into the start of the qualifying session in dry conditions and posted the very early target of 1min 52.286sec but that was soon surpassed by Ammermüller’s 1min 50.879 and Drudi’s run of 1min 50.681. Al Zubair stormed into sixth position after eight minutes of the session with an impressive lap of 1min 51.106sec.
Ammermüller was the first to post a sub 1min 50sec lap to regain the advantage only for Drudi to move in front again. Al Zubair retained sixth with an even quicker fourth lap of 1min 50.585sec. Several top 10 front-runners, including Al Zubair, pitted soon afterwards and Ammermüller and Drudi maintained first and second positions.
After tyre changes across the leader board, qualifying resumed with around 10 minutes remaining with Al Zubair sitting pretty in seventh behind Drudi, Ammermüller, Nick Yelloly, Florian Latorre, Preining and Julien Andlauer.
There were no changes in the top 10 with five minutes remaining, as drivers spent a lap warming up their tyres for a last gasp sprint for a fast qualifying time. Josh Webster stormed into sixth at the expense of Andlauer and his time demoted Al Zubair to eighth.
Latorre improved on his time to consolidate fourth and Jaap van Lagen moved into the top six and pushed Al Zubair further down the field, the Omani slipping to 11th when Larry Ten Voorde also climbed into contention.
Ammermüller claimed pole position in the dying seconds with a lap of 1min 49.551sec, as Preining, Drudi, Andlauer and Zaid Ashkanani rounded off the top five. Late fast times by his rivals saw Al Zubair in an eventual 11th with a best run of 1min 50.324sec.
The in-form Preining was the fastest of all the drivers in Friday evening’s training session with a best lap of 2min 0.245sec in wet conditions. Ammermüller and Webster were a close second and third. Al Zubair ran for 16 laps during the stint and a quickest tour of 2min 02.284sec put the Omani in 14th position amongst the 28 entrants.