Menu claims a third consecutive pole
Alain Menu has emerged as the fastest of the field in the latest events.
Today at Shanghai the Swiss racer has claimed his third consecutive pole position, the fourth for him during the season. Menu managed to beat his Chevrolet-team mate Yvan Muller by only 28 thousandths of a second. Norbert Michelisz created a surprise by posting the third fastest lap in his BMW, which demoted championship co-leader Rob Huff to fourth. Colin Turkington put in a solid performance as he qualified fifth on his first appearance at the wheel of a Chevrolet Cruze, an RML car run by Dick Bennett’s West Surrey Racing. Another newcomer, Fredy Barth, claimed a place in Q2 driving the SEAT Swiss Racing car. Tiago Monteiro did not repeat the miracle of Suzuka and failed to qualify his Honda Civic for Q2, despite another last gasp attempt. James Nash qualified the best of the Team Aon’s Ford Focus cars in 15th position. Tom Coronel and Gabriele Tarquini ranked tenth and ninth, meaning that they will start from the front row on the reversed grid for Race 2.
On their first lap out of the pits the Chevrolet trio booked their places in Q2: Yvan Muller’s 1:55.089, Rob Huff’s 1:54.548 and Alain Menu’s 1:54.775 were the fastest times straight away. In spite of this, they all improved on their second attempt: Huff to 1:54.491, Menu to 1:54.775 and Muller to 1:55.032. This placed Huff and Menu on top, while Muller lost third place to Colin Turkington who posted a lap of 1:55.018 to rank in third. Norbert Michelisz was best of the rest in fifth, with a lap of 1:55.243, beating Tom Coronel’s 1:55.246 by three thousandths of a second. Gabriele Tarquini secured the seventh place a further two hundredths adrift. Alex MacDowall, Pepe Oriola and Aleksei Dudukalo rounded off the top ten. As usual, the final moments provided plenty of drama. Just like in Japan Tiago Monteiro made a third attempt, but this time he failed to win a place in Q2. Fredy Barth was luckier; on his WTCC comeback the Swiss managed to climb to 11th on the last lap, kicking Mehdi Bennani off only a few seconds after the Moroccan had eliminated Darryl O’Young. The following drivers advanced to Q2: Huff, Menu, Turkington, Muller, Michelisz, Coronel, Tarquini, MacDowall, Oriola, Dudukalo, Barth and D’Aste.
Once again the Chevrolet men completed their first lap with very fast times. Menu’s 1:54.383 and Muller’s 1:54.409 were good enough to lock the front row of the grid for Race 1. Which was not the case for Huff, whose 1:54.582 placed him in fourth position, as Michelisz managed to improve on his second attempt and post a 1:54.523 that gave him the third place overall and pole position in the Yokohama Trophy. Turkington qualified in fifth (1:54.777) ahead of Stefano D’Aste (1:55.142), Oriola (1:55.378) and Alex MacDowall (1:55.378). After aborting his first attempt, Tarquini posted a 1:55.451 in the dying seconds of the session that placed him 9th on the grid for the first race. However, the Italian will be on the front row of the top-ten reverse grid for Race 2, alongside pole sitter Tom Coronel.
THEY SAID, THEY SAID…
Alain Menu (pole position): “It couldn’t be better for me. It is very good to be on pole once again. It was great and the team did a very good job, giving the fastest cars of the field once more. As I have said, this is not an easy track to understand, so I’m especially happy because my engineer and I have managed to find the right set up for qualifying. And I set the fastest lap on my own, as we have stopped with slipstreaming each other. Now we fight for the title, so everybody is on his own.”
Yvan Muller (2nd): “Second place on the grid is better than the fourth achieved by Rob, who is my rival for the championship. Of course, pole position would have been better, but when you are beaten by 28 thousandths of a second on a lap of nearly two minutes it is difficult to understand where you have lost them. Just overtaking a slower car makes the difference. Now we have to see what happens in the races; the circuit looks wide enough for overtaking, but is still new for everybody.”
Norbert Michelisz (3rd and 1st in Yokohama Trophy): “Frankly we did not expect such a result! We were aiming for a position between fifth and tenth. But, after the qualifying, I have to say that my car had the pace to go even faster. I had to overtake Coronel on my fastest lap, otherwise I could possibly qualify in an even better place. In the races I will try my best to follow the Chevrolet cars and see if I can benefit in case they have tyre problems”