Tinkering turns Courtney's car into slow-coach

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 November, 2003, 12:00am

Overnight provisional pole holder James Courtney lost his place in the front row for tomorrow's Formula Three race at the Golden Jubilee Macau Grand Prix after his team tinkered with his Dallara F303 machine yesterday.

His Toyota-Tom's outfit obviously hadn't heard of the old maxim, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

Instead of going faster, the car seemed sluggish and Australian Courtney could only manage a third place on the grid for the showpiece race tomorrow.

In pole position is Brazilian Fabio Carbone while another Aussie, Ryan Briscoe, claimed second spot.

'We changed the gears a little bit. The team assured me that it would be better but unfortunately it didn't work out.

'It made my car slower,' said a disappointed Courtney, who was touted as the winner of tomorrow's showpiece race by no less a person than last year's winner, Tristan Gommendy.

The Tom's driver had been quickest in every session including yesterday morning's free practice round. But after that had ended, the team decided to make a few changes.

They had worked on his Japanese teammate Tatsuya Katoka's car and decided to alter Courtney's as well. But the changes did not work out when Courtney went back on to the track.

Despite the setback, Courtney, the Japanese F3 champion, remained confident that he could still win the race - as long as the team changed the car back to its original specifications.

'As long as they change the car back, my chances are still good for winning the race. It is a long race and as long as I stay out of trouble, I'm confident that I can finish first,' said Courtney.

Carbone, who was pipped by Courtney's time of two minutes and 13.232 seconds right at the end of the first qualifying round on Thursday, stormed back to take pole position yesterday in 2:13.016 in his Renault-Sodemo.

But having grabbed pole position, Carbone hit the barriers and damaged his car as he tried to improve his time.

Briscoe put a morning practice accident behind him as he secured a spot on the front row. The leading Macau rookie clinched second spot in 2:13.233 to edge out Courtney whose best time was 2:13.267.

Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre and German Pierre Kaffer were fourth and fifth with American Richard Antinucci sixth.

Nico Rosberg was seventh fastest, but the other son of a famous racing father, Nelson Piquet Jnr, could only manage 13th slot on the grid with his best time being 2:14.949, a gap of 1.93 seconds behind Carbone.

Local hero Andre Couto grabbed pole position for the Guia race tomorrow. Driving an Alfa Romeo 147, Couto blitzed the rest of the field in the touring car championship with a time of 2:38.864. In second place was Dutchman Duncan Huisman, the defending champion, in a BMW while Briton Simon Harrison in a Honda had to settle for third.