Top times put Opel in line for unprecedented two-way success
ENGINE manufacturer Opel is poised to complete a unique double today with an opportunity to sweep both the Formula Three and Guia touring car races.
Anthony Reid is the pole-sitter in the Guia Race driving an Opel Vectra while Gianfranco Fisichella leads the way in the F3 event behind the wheel of an Opel-powered RC Motorsport Dallara F394.
Toyota-powered machines have won both the F3 and Guia races in the past but never in the same year.
Reid is nearly a half second clear of a gaggle of BMW 318is while Fisichella dominated Friday's qualifying for the F3 event with a dazzling time of 2:17.96, within striking distance of Swede Rickard Rydell's lap record set last year of 2:17.40.
The slightly-built Italian who convincingly won his country's F3 crown this year was also quickest through the speed trap with a top speed of 159.62 km/h.
More than a full second clear of second-placed Sascha Maassen, only a lapse in concentration on the demanding 6.2-kilometre street circuit would deny the 19-year-old victory.
Significantly Maassen's Mild Seven WTS Racing Team Dallara F394 is also powered by an Opel engine.
Only Phillip Peter driving an Elf Team-Formel 3 Dallara F394 powered by a Fiat motor denied Opel a clean sweep of the top three placings.
Unless mechanics can wring more power out of their respective cars during untimed practice this morning, Fisichella will start the hottest favourite in the history of F3 racing in Macau which stretches back to 1983 when three-time Formula One champion, the late Ayrton Senna, launched his stellar career.
Fisichella oozes self confidence and makes no secret of his tactics today.
'I want to be the fastest off the start, well clear by Statue Bend then open up a big lead and pace myself from there.
'It's a difficult track, the most difficult I have driven on, so it is important to avoid traffic, particularly early in the race,' Fisichella said.
Asked if he still had potential in the car to lower Rydell's track record the Fisichella said: 'My first target is to win the race - the track record, well let's wait and see what happens in the race. I'm here to win, not break track records.' One driver with special incentive to do well is Japanese F3 champion Michael Krumm who drives one of only two machines not running a Dallara chassis.
German Krumm drives a TOM'S Racing Team TOMS034F powered by a Toyota motor.
Krumm clearly demonstrated that the vice-like grip of the Dallara cars could be loosened, qualifying in eighth place.
More than one-and-a-half seconds behind Fisichella, victory looks beyond the car's potential but if the Italian comes to grief a podium finish looks a distinct possibility.
One form driver who ruined his chances of a big finish to the 1994 season was British F3 champion Jan Magnussen.
Police Bend was twice his nemesis during practice on Friday. First he spun. Then, 40 minutes into the session, he crashed into the Armco ruining any chance of a top position on the grid.
He is in 18th place and the odds remain stacked against him to thread his way around slower cars and challenge the leaders.
Aggregate times for the two legs will decide the winner.
The first leg of the F3 race is scheduled for 11.55 am with the second at 3.40 pm.