Antonio Pizzonia earned his third pole in four outings as Superleague Formula began its visit to Estoril, but the field behind him will include some major changes since the football-themed series’ last meeting at Donington – including the disappearance of two out of the three Brits who raced there.
Scott Mansell was replaced as Galatasaray driver immediately after the last round, and rumours began soon after that AS Roma was to draft in former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve at the expense of Jonathan Kennard.
That transfer failed to materialise – but operation of the Roma car switched from Azerti Motorsport to Alan Docking Racing between the two meetings and the new management is running Franck Perera instead of Kennard, who had believed he was assured a full season drive.
Other changes include four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais in at Sevilla instead of Esteban Guerrieri, who replaces Davide Rigon at Olympiacos. Maria de Villota’s signing by Atletico Madrid displaces Ho-Pin Tung, who takes Mansell’s seat at Galatasaray.
FC Porto have drafted in Portuguese driver Alvaro Parente for their home round instead of Tristan Gommendy while Dominick Muermans, whose slow pace and refusal to allow the leaders to lap him caused considerable upset at Donington, has been dumped by PSV in favour of fellow Dutchman Carlo van Dam.
Not all the new drivers prospered in qualifying, with off-track excursions ensuring that de Villota and Bourdais failed to advance from the group stages. Parente set the fastest time and Liverpool and Rangers also both advanced, but the sole remaining British driver, Tottenham’s championship challenger Craig Dolby, missed out in the closely-matched group B.
Pizzonia dispatched Rangers’ John Martin in the first of the knock-out rounds, while championship leader Adrian Valles fell short for Liverpool in the semi-final against Guerrieri. The Argentinian driver then lost out to Brazil’s Pizzonia, representing Corinthians, in the qualifying final.
Valles said: “We’ll go for the victory tomorrow rather than just try to be safe and score points for the championship. If you just try to settle for points bad things can sometimes happen. Antonio and Esteban were really fast today but I think third on the grid for the race is pretty good because we have seen guys win from much further back than there in the past.”
Dolby, who will start 13th, said his car had handled badly, but hoped the problem would be fixed for the race. His failure to advance past the group stage means he has saved some fresh tyres for the race.
- Corinthians (Antonio Pizzonia)
- Olympiacos (Esteban Guerrieri)
- Liverpool (Adrian Valles)
- FC Basel (Max Wissel)
- Glasgow Rangers (John Martin)
- Anderlecht (Yelmer Buurman)
- AS Roma (Franck Perera)
- FC Porto (Alvaro Parente)
- AC Milan (Giorgio Pantano)
- Olympique Lyonnais (Nelson Panciatici)
- FC Midtylland (Kasper Andersen)
- Sporting Clube de Portugal (Pedro Petiz)
- Tottenham Hotspur (Craig Dolby)
- PSV Eindhoven (Carlo van Dam)
- Sevilla FC (Sebastien Bourdais)
- Galatasaray (Ho-Pin Tung)
- Flamengo (Enrique Bernoldi)
- Atletico de Madrid (Maria de Villota)