Thursday, November 14, 2002

Matsuura On Provisional Pole

Japanese Kousuke Matsuura grabbed provisional pole position for the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix in the final minute of Thursday's opening qualifying session.

The Prema Powerteam driver, who finished runner-up in this year's German Formula 3 series, had been in contention for the top spot all the way through the 45-minute session as the times tumbled. And he did not let a brief red flag session affect his concentration as he made the most of the stoppage to capitalise on the fastest track conditions in the closing seconds.

The red flag had been brought out following two unconnected accidents. Local driver Lei Kit Meng badly damaged his car after hitting the barriers backwards, while Alan van de Merwe put his Carlin Motorsport Dallara F302 sideways into the armco at Dona Maria Bend.

Japanese Yuji Ide left it until his final lap to secure second place on the grid, 0.818 seconds behind his compatriot, while Australian driver James Courtney proved one of the sensations of the day as he grabbed provisional third spot in the closing seconds on his first visit to Macau.

The former Jaguar Formula 1 test driver, who finished runner-up in this year's British F3 championship, said: “I was really starting to push towards the end. I had been fairly quick all day but I didn't really want to go off so I wasn't taking any risks. But the red flag session really helped because it allowed me to make an improvement to my set-up and that really helped. On my final lap I knew I could take bigger chances, and it really paid off.”

Italian Paolo Montin, who had been quickest in the morning session, had no complaints about his session despite ending up only fourth. “At the end, when all the best times were done, I was running alone and just getting my set-up right for tomorrow,” explained the TOM’S driver. “I didn't use any new tyres so I could save them for final qualifying. I am pretty happy.”

Heikki Kovalainen complained of feeling slightly unwell during the session but ended up fifth fastest. “I don't know what I've got, but I should be alright by tomorrow,” said the Finn. “My car was fine, but the red flag caught me out because I had just put on some new tyres. I was also caught out by traffic on my best laps but I think it has been a good day.”

French Formula 3 champion Tristan Gommendy ruined his chances of grabbing provisional pole position when he brushed the wall at the exit of R. Bend and damaged his left rear wheel. He ended up sixth overall after challenging for the top spot for much of the session.

Japanese Tatsuya Kataoka, who drives for Swiss Racing Team, damaged his car after crashing into the barriers on the exit of Dona Maria Bend and again on the entry to the Melco Hairpin. Cristiano Citron also crashed his Target Racing car into the barriers.

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