Michelisz claims his first pole
Norbert Michelisz will start the first of tomorrow’s two WTCC races at the Slovakia Ring from pole position.
The Hungarian driver’s BMW was the only car to break the 2:13 barrier during the two-part Qualifying session with a time of 2:12.990.
The two SEAT León WTCC cars of Aleksei Dudukalo (2:13.076) and Gabriele Tarquini (2:13.137) completed the top three. Behind them there will be the Ford Focus of James Nash and the SUNRED León of Tiago Monteiro with Yvan Muller in the first of the factory Chevrolet Cruze cars starting from sixth on the grid.
Thanks to the reversed grid, the BMW 320 TC of Stefano D’Aste should have started Race 2 from pole position, but after James Nash’s penalty it will be Tom Chilton on pole.
The majority of Qualifying 1 was dominated by the three factory Chevrolet Cruze drivers, with Yvan Muller heading his teammates Robert Huff and Alain Menu. Then, with less than four minutes of the session remaining, the SEAT León of Pepe Oriola took over three-tenths of a second off Muller’s time, with James Nash’s Ford Focus also slipping past the current Drivers’ Championship leader. Tom Coronel narrowly missed out on making the cut for Q2; after being forced to pit with an open rear door early in the session, the BMW driver was in 13th place and on a quick lap with less than 30 seconds remaining, but Franz Engstler going off into the gravel brought out the red flags and so Coronel was denied a place in the top 12.
Going through to Q2: Oriola, Nash, Muller, Huff, Menu, Dudukalo, Monteiro, Michelisz, D’Aste, Cerqui, Tarquini and Chilton.
Norbert Michelisz in the Zengö Motorsport BMW 320 TC took his first-ever qualified pole position in the WTCC by setting a lap time of 2:12.990 – a little over 0.08 seconds ahead of another of the Yokohama Trophy competitors, Aleksei Dudukalo in the Lukoil Racing SEAT León.
In all, there will be three León cars in the top 5, with Gabriele Tarquini third and Tiago Monteiro fifth in the SUNRED car (2:13.322), just behind the Team AON Ford Focus of James Nash (2:13.317). The three factory Chevrolet drivers fared less well, with Yvan Muller qualifying in sixth place (2:13.366) ahead of Robert Huff (2:13.575) and Alain Menu in ninth place (2:13.721) just behind Pepe Oriola (2:13.684) but ahead of Stefano D’Aste (2:14.668).
NASH’S PENALTY PUTS CHILTON ON POLE
Following the Q2 qualifying session for tomorrow’s WTCC first race at the Slovakia Ring, the FIA Scrutineers discovered that the ride height on James Nash’s Team AON Ford Focus did not conform to the WTCC regulations.
As a result, Nash has been given a penalty of ten grid positions for both of tomorrow’s races. He will therefore start from 14th place on the grid in both races. Thanks to the reverse grid rule, the penalty means that Nash’s teammate Tom Chilton will start Race 2 from pole position after originally qualifying in 11th place.
BARLESI WILL NOT RACE IN SLOVAKIA
Andrea Barlesi is not taking part in the event at the Slovakia Ring. The Belgian driver and SUNRED Engineering appear to have parted.
The Spanish team tried to find a last-minute replacement for Barlesi’s SUNRED León car and contacted Slovak racer Filip Sladecka, but eventually they could not find an agreement.
ENGINE CHANGE PENALTY FOR BENNANI
Proteam Racing’s Mehdi Bennani will be forced to start from the back of the grid of tomorrow’s Race 1.
The Moroccan driver was given the grid penalty from the Stewards, following an engine change occurred on his BMW 320 TC car.
Engine were also changed on the SEAT León cars of Pepe Oriola and Aleksei Dudukalo, but they were not penalised as competitors who used engines that have been homologated in 2012 were granted the right to change until May 1st.
THEY SAID, THEY SAID…
Norbert Michelisz – pole position
“It has been a great surprise as in the first practice we had not manage to find a good balance. But at the end of the second practice we began to make progress. I was not expecting to be on pole because we were struggling. This result to me means as much as a race victory. I was expecting some headwind, and I was looking for somebody to follow in Q2 to benefit from his slipstream. I found Muller and I guess this was worth at least one tenth. I have a very good felling for the races, because if the temperatures remain high, then from mid race onwards the BMW cars should be faster than the rest of the field.”
Aleksei Dudukalo – 2nd
“It is a great result. My best in WTCC and I have to thank the team as they have done a great job in setting up my car, but also Gabriele who had the patience to lead me around on the track and showed. It is a great day for me! I had a lot of bad luck in the first events of the season, but maybe this is over and now I’m very much looking forward to tomorrow’s races. I would be very happy with a top-five result in Race 1.”
Gabriele Tarquini – 3rd
“I think the biggest surprise is not to see Chevrolet drivers among the top five. In spite of this I think they remain the men to beat tomorrow. I was not confident for a good qualifying, because I had so many problems today: fuel pump and wastegate valve control failed in practice, and again I had power steering problems in qualifying that cost me something. I also made a couple of lesser mistake that may be cost me the pole position. Tomorrow I’m sure we will have a couple of great races. On this track you can play with slipstreaming and the first turn will be very busy.”