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ETCC ACE FULIN PUTS IT ON POLE IN SLOVAKIA

2015-06-21

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Czech driver Petr Fulin overcame his set-up issues from yesterday to put his SEAT León Cup Racer on pole at the Slovakia Ring, and give himself the best possible chance to win the opening FIA European Touring Car Cup race tomorrow.

Fulin beat local hero Mato Homola to top spot on the tight and technical Slovakia Ring, with Dušan Borković third. All three are eligible for the Single Make Trophy.

Georgian driver Davit Kajaia continued his domination of the TC2T class to claim sixth overall on tomorrow’s grid with his BMW. This weekend, Kajaia is supporting charitable actions to aid the victims of the recent floods in Georgia, and his performance gave full credit to this worthy cause.

In the non-turbocharged TC2 category, Michal Matejovský continued his strong performance, placing his older BMW ninth overall in the session.

The least powerful class is Super 1600, but Germany’s leading up-and-coming female racer, Ulrike Krafft, drove with superb commitment to set a winning time and line up 15th overall on the grid.

There will be two FIA ETCC races tomorrow: starting at 10h05 and 11h10, with a standing and a rolling start respectively. Both races will last nine laps, and the grid for race two will be formed of the top eight finishers from race one reversed. Click here for the provisional Qualifying classification.

QUALIFYING REPORT: FULIN BOUNCES BACK TO CLAIM SLOVAKIA ETCC POLE

Petr Fulin bounced back from serious set-up issues during testing to claim his first FIA European Touring Car Cup pole position of 2015, at the Slovakia Ring in his Single Make Trophy SEAT León Cup Racer. Davit Kajaia was quickest in TCT2, Michal Matejovský came out on top in TC2 with leading lady driver Ulrike Krafft setting the pace in the Super 1600 division.

Fulin, from Czech Republic, had been unable to complete more than three laps at a time due to excessive front tyre overheating and understeer. But his team worked hard on Friday night in order to change the set-up entirely and give the ETCC frontrunner the confidence he needed to attack for pole position.

Having gone fastest in Free Practice this morning, Fulin seized the initiative in Qualifying and was never beaten. Now he is looking to try to claim his first race win of the year – and he says that a clean getaway will be essential, after contact wrecked his chances in the Hungaroring season-opener last month.

“It’s going to be very close: it was quite interesting at the beginning with Dušan Borković last time in Hungary and I just hope that everyone can get through the race with no problems as we need the cars in one piece for the next race, which is already next weekend in France,” he said. “I’m very pleased with this pole position as after the tyre problems we had yesterday, we worked very hard to change everything in our set-up. Then we had just one opportunity to set a time with new tyres in qualifying, and we took it.”

Davit Kajaia from Georgia was sixth overall in his TC2T Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320, and is hoping to add more class wins in Sunday’s double-header. He was pleased with his performance in Qualifying, but has other things on his mind this weekend, as he is raising awareness for the victims of the flooding that affected his home city of Tbilisi last weekend – carrying a black ribbon of mourning on his race overalls. “We made no real mistakes in the qualifying but the most important thing is to try and help the flood victims,” he said. “I want to dedicate my whole race weekend to them. Tomorrow we will try and do our best to have two clean races. I’m happy that I got the best performance out of the car and of myself today.”

Michal Matejosvký, by contrast, wasn’t happy with his time even though he led the TC2 class with ninth overall in his BMW after Qualifying: the same position he claimed on the grid in Hungary. However, the Czech driver, who partners Fulin at Krenek Motorsport, is very clear on his game plan for tomorrow. “My goal is to try and finish eighth, which will give me pole position for Race Two,” he said. “This worked before, so hopefully we can do it again.”

Germany’s Ulrike Krafft didn’t feature at the top of the time sheets during the three sessions held before Qualifying at the Slovakia Ring but came good when it mattered, going fastest in the Super 1600 class in her Ford Fiesta. “We were close to the top all the time, so we knew we were in a good position,” she said. “Luckily everything came together in qualifying. I don’t care if it rains or not tomorrow: either is good for me.”

Top qualifiers, TC2T: Davit Kajaia (BMW) 2m14.939s; TC2: Michal Matejovský (BMW) 2m16.777s; S1600: Ulrike Krafft (Ford) 2m31.098s; SMT: Petr Fulin (SEAT) 2m13.661s. Sunday key timings: 08h15-08h30: Warm-up; 10h05: Race 1 (9 laps); 11h10: Race 2 (9 laps).

THEY SAID WHAT? ETCC ACES ON SLOVAKIA RING QUALIFYING

Q: Peter, how did qualifying go for you? You struggled with a set-up issue yesterday? PF: It’s still very difficult for me to drive this …

Q: Peter, how did qualifying go for you? You struggled with a set-up issue yesterday?

PF: It’s still very difficult for me to drive this car after three years of driving something else. We also weren’t quite able to find the right set-up for the car on this track. After the second test session we changed everything, and this is the set-up that we’re going to use for the race as well as qualifying. On my first lap there was a red flag, then I went onto my second set of tyres, but now we are here and of course I’m very happy with this pole position. I’m sure it was very difficult for the other drivers too. It’s not an easy car to drive when the tyres are a bit worn: there’s a lot of weight at the front and then you have the turbo giving you extra boost on the exit. So you only really get one chance to go for a time on new tyres and that’s why it’s important to get a clean lap. Here the top four or five cars are very close, just as was the case in Hungary. Only four or five tenths of a second cover us at the front so I think it’s going to be a very difficult race tomorrow, especially after the last time with Borkovic in Hungary. I just hope that we can enjoy a good weekend without accidents, because of course we need the cars in one piece for Paul Ricard, which is only next weekend.

 Q: Davit, you’re racing for a very special cause this weekend?

DK: That’s right. In my home city there was a very big flood last weekend with many people dying and many more injured. So I want to dedicate my race to the city of Tbilisi. And I’m wearing a black ribbon on my overalls in memory of the people who died. As for qualifying, I’m happy enough with the result and I think we will enjoy the race tomorrow. The only problem I experienced was when my car lost a bit of power, but I am first in class so I am happy.

Q: Michal, what’s the secret to doing well here?

MM: I’m not really sure but I like this circuit and I’ve always had very good results. I know the track well but I’m not very happy with our time because we had red flag and also some yellows: maybe I killed the tyres a bit. We had a lot of understeer but I think our strategy of saving the tyres for the race tomorrow was the right one. My goal is going to be to finish first, bank the points, and increase our lead over Peter Rikli. So I reckon tomorrow will be a good race.

Q: What are your tactics for the race?

MM: I’d like to do what I did in Hungary: finish eighth in race one in order to be first in the second race. But unlike last time, I’d like to avoid an accident in the first corner at the second race! I’ve got my plan and I just want to take maximum points in my class, and most of all enjoy the experience.

Q: Ulrike, we’ve not seen you top the time sheets in the sessions here so far before, but you were first when it mattered: in qualifying…

UK: Yes, but I was really close all weekend. In testing we had a problem with the fuel pump, so I couldn’t improve my time. After we fixed it everything was fine and I’m happy to deliver on the potential and set pole.

Q: Do you feel confident for tomorrow?

UK: In this business you can’t ever be confident but I feel very good on this track and it’s one that I have a nice feeling with. We’ve got a good set-up so we will just do our best and see what happens. Obviously I hope to stay in first position.

Q: So what would be ideal for you tomorrow, sunshine or rain?

UK: On the Slovakia Ring it doesn’t really matter. Either sunshine or rain is fine for me.

Q: Mato, how has it been swapping between a WTCC car and your usual ETCC SEAT this weekend so far?

MH: It actually wasn’t as difficult as I expected. I know the SEAT Leon very well and actually the difference between it and the Chevrolet isn’t so big: the main thing is just the power and the brakes, which are much more on the WTCC car. So I just tried to concentrate on those things to ensure that I wasn’t caught out, but basically it was OK jumping from one car to the other: no issues.

Q: Does it make a difference to be racing at home? Can you feel the support of the local fans when you are out on the track?

MH: Definitely. For me, it’s obviously nice to see the flags and the crowd. I also get big support from my family, sponsors and friends here. The fans obviously play a massive role in this – this is where I sign more autographs than I ever do during the rest of the year – and that’s really nice. Some people might say that it’s not good to be under that extra pressure, but I personally don’t find it such a big problem, mentally.

Q: Where in Slovakia do you come from? Have you done plenty of laps of the circuit?

MH: I only come from about 20 kilometres away from here, so it’s very much my local event. I’ve done a fair number of laps of the circuit, but I’m always happy to do more!