Menu's pole is worth the manufacturers's title
With most of the attention focusing on Tiago Monteiro and the Honda Civic on their first appearance in the World Championship, the Chevrolet team managed to steal the limelight putting in another amazing performance. Menu and his team-mates Yvan Muller and Rob Huff monopolized the first three positions, and Alex MacDowall and his bamboo-engineering Cruze car provided the icing on the cake by qualifying in fourth. Which also meant pole position in the Yokohama Trophy for the young Englishman. An impressive Mehdi Bennani emerged as the best of the rest in fifth, with his Proteam Racing BMW 320 TC, while Gabriele Tarquini – the fastest of the SEAT drivers – and Tom Coronel qualified sixth and seventh. As for Monteiro, he qualified 11th after using all the new sets of tyres to win a place in Q2. However, on his last attempt in Q1, Monteiro had showed that the Civic has a potential, as he was able to set the seventh fastest lap and advance to Q2. A brilliant result considering that the Japanese car moved its first steps less than three months ago. Stefano D’Aste and Pepe Oriola qualified 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 secured their places in Q2: Yvan Muller’s 53.175, Alain Menu’s 53.327 and Rob Huff’s 53.365 were already good enough to advance to the final ten minutes of the qualifying session. In spite of this, they all improved on their second attempt: Muller to 52.940, Menu to 52.984 and Huff to 53.077. Behind them Alex MacDowall was already on top of the Yokohama trophy, fourth overall with a lap of 53.357. With Tom Coronel and Aleksei Dudukalo in fifth and sixth positions, Tiago Monteiro managed to win a place in Q2 in the dying seconds. Using his last set of new tyres, the Portuguese driver remained cool and clocked a 53.443 that promoted him from 12th to seventh and also kicked Franz Engstler out of the top-twelve.
Engstler and Norbert Michelisz were the first drivers excluded from Q2, in 13th and 14th positions. They remained off by two and four thousandths of a second respectively. The following drivers advanced to Q2: Muller, Menu, Huff, MacDowall, Coronel, Dudukalo, Monteiro, Tarquini, O’Young, Bennani, D’Aste and Oriola.
Once again it took only one lap to the Chevrolet men for establishing the ranking on top of the qualifying session. With an amazing 52.885, Menu beat Muller’s 52.950 and Huff’s 53.885. On the second attempt, only Huff improved to 53.054, but this did not help him to move ahead from third. Just like in Q1, MacDowall completed the Chevrolet quartet and with a lap of 53.206 he demoted Mehdi Bennani to fifth. MacDowall’s new team-mate at bamboo-engineering, Darryl O’Young, could have been his most dangerous contender for the pole. However, after setting very fast Intermediates in the first two sectors, O’Young spoiled everything with a mistake on the final turn.
Having used all his new tyres in Q1, Monteiro could not achieve any better than the 11th place and remained one second off the reversed pole position for Race 2.
Double engine change at Team
Engines have been changed on both Team Aon’s Ford Focus cars. As a consequence, both Tom Chilton and James Nash will be placed at the back of the starting grids for both tomorrow’s races. Nash and Chilton will be demoted from 19th and 21st to 22nd and 23rd respectively.
Honda launch WTCC programme at Suzuka
Honda Racing officially launched their WTCC programme during a press conference held today at the Suzuka International Circuit. In front of a large audience, Hideo Sato, General Manager of Honda Motor Sport Division, Daisuke Horiuchi, chief engineer for the development of the Civic WTCC car, Alessandro Mariani, team principal of Honda Racng Team JAS and the driver Tiago Monteiro, addressed themselves to the floor and answered questions.
THEY SAID, THEY SAID…
Alain Menu (pole position): “It was a great result because it helped sanctioning Chevrolet’s title in the Manufacturers’ Trophy. This is a very difficult track and it’s easy to make mistakes. Even more than at Sonoma, since this track is shorter and quicker. I have been on top since the beginning of the track activities, but Yvan and Rob have always been very close. I think any of us could have won pole position today.”
Yvan Muller (2nd): “Today you could win or lose pole position because of a marginal mistake. I had looked for the limit of the car in practice and it helped. In qualifying my car was good and I was trying to push as hard as I could. But obviously it was not enough to beat Alain. Anyway, better than nothing, I have pocketed one more point compared to Rob. Now every little thing count for the title fight.”
Rob Huff (3rd): “I did my best to improve the time in my second run. It was really the best lap I’ve driven since I’ve been here. The track was a bit hard and I did improve on my second lap so I’m a little disappointed to be the third. As Yvan said, we keep trying harder and harder to qualify and win the races. Driving fast but not taking any risks and make sure that we keep the Championship as close as possible.”
Alex MacDowall (1st in Yokohama Trophy): “It’s been a long time since I qualified independent pole. I think Suzuka suits my style, as I am a smooth driver. I’m happy because this was my best overall qualifying result and it’s great to be behind these three guys who are the best in the world. I’m gonna try my best to keep up with them tomorrow, and hopefully if one of them makes a mistake, I can maybe overtake. But my main goal is to finish top of the Yokohama trophy.”