Spa - BEL

A qualifying roulette!

The Maseratis had a tough time of it in the International Superstars Series at Spa. As ever, the weather played a crucial role and, in the Ardennes, revolutionised Saturday’s action.

The first free practice session was held in a downpour and was a true washout with none of the teams able to complete their prep work. The rain also came down in session two, this time not as hard. By the time qualifying came round the track was still damp but it gradually dried out. The conditions meant that the drivers played Russian roulette as they tried to match the tyres to the circuit conditions as they got ready for their lap.

The weather meant the teams weren’t able to prepare for the weekend’s two races with all the false lap times produced. One thing was certain: the four-wheel drive Audi RS5 again gave it the edge in the wet. Audi’s Gianni Morbidelli finished on pole ahead of stable-mate Johan Kristoffersson. Some distance off them were the Caal Racing Mercedes C63 AMGs driven by Vitantonio Liuzzi and Luigi Ferrara. Ferrara was making a comeback to the series after his 2011 title bid.

Maserati also did well as Swiss Team showed just how competitive the Quattroporte Evo is. Star name Mika Salo was lining up again after appearing in round one at Monza. Here he clocked the fifth best time in Free Practice 1 and the ninth fastest in the second session. He will be on row three tomorrow after finishing fifth in qualifying.

The ex-F1 driver, talented as he is, couldn’t overcome the conditions because he had no idea how the Quattroporte Evo handles in the wet. What made things tougher is that he didn’t have the time to set up the car for this circuit. The unpredictable weather meant that he couldn’t make the most of the final few minutes of the session, when the track was almost dry, to set a better time. So, posting fifth has to be considered a fine effort.

Mauro Cesari, who only started racing in 2007, had an even more difficult task. Swiss Team’s other Quattroporte Evo driver had never competed in the wet and knew practically nothing about Spa. He did race here last year but the car he was in caught fire during free practice, ruling him out of qualifying and the race itself. This time round Cesari was out to get to know the track layout and didn’t push too hard, given the conditions. So, his placing 15th has to be taken in context.