Gabriele Tarquini returned on pole position thirteen months after Monza 2012. And this was a special one, as it marked the first pole for Honda in WTCC since 2005.
After the qualifying session at Monza two weeks ago had showed that the Chevrolet cars were the fastest on the long straights, a fight among the five drivers in the Cruze was expected. Instead, the Italian ace put in two perfect laps, one in Q1 and one in Q2 to annihilate them all.
Eventually James Nash emerged as the best of the Chevy men, qualifying in second, only 0.048 seconds behind Tarquini.
It was a sweet and sour day for the Castrol Honda Racing, as Tiago Monteiro was eliminated in Q1, hitting a wall while he was comfortably among the top-twelve.
Tom Coronel and James Thompson, who had managed to win a trip to Q2, could not take part after being involved in two different incidents just before the end of Q1.
Gabriele Tarquini posted the fastest lap immediately before the red flag stopped the session. His time of 1:44.910 was good enough to keep him on top until the end of Q1. Yvan Muller (1:45.185) and Alex MacDowall (1:45.446) were classified second and third.
The session was disrupted once by the red flag, after 15 minutes, when Tiago Monteiro’s Honda hit the wall at the exit of the second chicane.
Local driver Mehdi Bennani fought hard to make the top-twelve, as he was lying in 13th position. Eventually he spoiled his chances, spinning at Turn 4 and hitting the barrier when the session resumed after the red flag. He pitted for repairs and rejoined with four minutes left on the clock, but could not improve.
The late moments were full of drama for ROAL Motorsport. Tom Coronel managed to climb to tenth, kicking his team-mate Darryl O’Young out of the top-twelve. Moments later the Dutchman missed the braking point at Turn 10 and crashed into O’Young’s car. James Thompson, who had qualified ninth, hit the wall at the hairpin before the end of the session.
The following drivers went through to Q2: Tarquini, Muller, MacDowall, Chilton, Oriola, Nykjær, Nash, Basseng, Thompson, Coronel, Huff, Monje.
With Thompson and Coronel sidelined for the consequences of their incidents during Q1, Tarquini settled the matter on his first timed lap. His 1:44.358 was good enough to give Honda Civic its first pole in WTCC.
James Nash emerged as the fastest in the Yokohama Trophy and secured the second place overall with a lap of 1:44.406, beating Yvan Muller’s 1:44.504. Michel Nykjær (1:44.745), Tom Chilton (1:44.863) and Alex MacDowall (1:45.060) completed a Chevrolet quintet behind Tarquini’s Honda.
Four SEAT cars rounded out the top-ten, with Rob Huff in seventh, followed by Marc Basseng, Pepe Oriola and Fernando Monje. The latter will be on pole position on the reversed grid for Race 2.