Buurman sets the pace in Estoril free practice

Anderlecht’s Yelmer Buurman topped the aggregate free practice times today at Estoril ahead of qualifying for round four of the Superleague Formula by Sonangol season. The Dutchman lapped the 4.182km Portuguese venue in 1m26.968 during the morning’s first session, becoming the only driver throughout free practice to break into the 1 minute 26s.

Dry, warm conditions greeted the teams and drivers for the morning’s first session at 10.30 (CET). Impromptu running on Friday meant that everyone had already familiarized themselves with Estoril’s demanding layout, although it was Buurman who would put that experience to best use over the opening 45 minutes. The former GP2 driver, who currently lies 12th in the Superleague standings, produced a staggering time to remain the fastest of all throughout the three sessions.

Max Wissel picked up where he left off at Donington Park last time out to claim second, although the FC Basel driver ended up a full 1.696 seconds shy of Buurman’s time. Esteban Guerrieri meanwhile gave his new team Olympiacos something to smile about by finishing up third, with FC Midtjylland’s Kasper Andersen, Rangers’ Donington Super Final victor John Martin and league leader Adrian Valles (Liverpool) completing the top six.

The second session saw Wissel again run strongly, the German ace managing a 1m29.328 effort in what proved to be a slower 45 minutes of action. Guerrieri was another to build on his first session by setting the second fastest time, just 0.064 seconds shy of the FC Basle car with Martin a further 0.002 seconds back. Practice two in fact proved to the closest of all with the top 11 covered by less than a second. Any hope of drivers making improvements in the last three minutes were lost however when series debutant Maria de Villota span, hastening the red flags and a premature end.

The third and final session saw the drivers knuckle down with times generally faster than that of either first or second practice. This time it was Franck Perera, returning to the championship with AS Roma after contesting six races for the Italian outfit last term, who went fastest thanks to a 1m27.291 lap. Despite the time being over 0.3 seconds down on Buurman’s ultimate practice lap, it was still quick enough to beat Corinthians’ Friday pace setter Antonio Pizzonia by 0.438 seconds. Fellow former F1 driver Giorgio Pantano was just 0.042 seconds back in third for AC Milan with Guerrieri maintaining his good form in fourth.

Series debutant Sebastien Bourdais spent most of the day familiarizing himself with the surroundings of the FC Sevilla cockpit before producing his best lap of all – a 1m27.861 – to go fifth.

It was a mixed bag for the two home teams with Alvaro Parente, fresh off the back of his GP2 win at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend, managing seventh in final practice after fourth in the second session. Compatriot Pedro Petiz however was rather less fortunate after swiping the barrier with 17 minutes remaining of practice three and ending the session 17th.

Qualifying for places on the opening race 18-car grid is staged from 16:10 (CET) concluding with the two-car pole-position “shoot out" at 17:25 (CET).

Qualifying Groups:

Group A

Sporting Clube de Portugal: Pedro Petiz (POR)
Liverpool FC’s Adrián Vallés (ESP)
FC Basel: Max Wissel (GER)
Athlético de Madrid: Maria de Villota (ESP)
Glasgow Rangers: John Martin (AUS)
Olympiacos: Esteban Guerrieri (ARG)
Galatasaray: Ho-Pin Tung (CHN)
Olympique Lyonnais: Nelson Panciatici (FRA)
PSV Eindhoven: Carlo Van Dam (NED)

Group B

Flamengo: Enrique Bernoldi (BRA)
SC Corinthians: Antonio Pizzonia (BRA)
AS Roma: Franck Perera (FRA)
Sevilla FC: Sebastien Bourdais
Tottenham Hotspur’s Craig Dolby (GB)
AC Milan: Giorgio Pantano (ITA)
RSC Anderlecht: Yelmer Buurman (NED)
FC Porto: Alvaro Parente (POR)
FC Midtjylland: Kasper Andersen (DEN)

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