Tarquini places seat back on pole
Gabriele Tarquini will start the first WTCC race of the 2012 season from pole position after setting the fastest time (1:57.915) in Qualifying this afternoon.
In doing so, Tarquini’s SEAT León has ended the string of thirteen successive pole positions by Chevrolet that began in Macau in 2010. Behind the Italian driver on the grid will be the four Chevrolet Cruze cars of Yvan Muller, Robert Huff, Alain Menu and Rickard Rydell with seventh-placed Pepe Oriola the highest of the Yokoham Trophy contenders.
The Chevrolet of Alain Menu was the early pace-setter in the session, but Pepe Oriola sprung a surprise after four laps when his SEAT León went fastest. The Spanish driver’s joy was short-lived, however, when Gabriele Tarquini and Robert Huff both went quicker. Yvan Muller then snatched the second-fastest time, with Alain Menu and the BMW of Norbert Michelisz also going quicker than Oriola before the session was red-flagged when Alberto Cerqui went off at the Parabolica.
The following drivers went through to Q2: Tarquini, Muller, Huff, Michelisz, Menu, Oriola, Dudalko, Coronel, Rydell, D’Aste, MacDowall and Wéber.
Tarquini’s pole-winning time occurred on only his second lap, with the three factory Chevrolet drivers unable to better his performance. Muller (1:57.974), Huff (1:58.106) and Menu (1:58.200) will therefore all start behind the SEAT driver in tomorrow’s first race. The Chevrolet Motorsport Sweden Cruze of Rickard Rydell (1:58.319) and Tom Coronel in a BMW 320 TC (1:58.389) qualified fifth and sixth respectively, with Oriola (1:58.412) heading the Yokohama Trophy entrants in seventh. Alex MacDowall (1:58.507), Aleksei Dudukalo (1:58.649) and Norbert Michelisz (1:58.652) rounded off the top ten, with Stefano D’Aste (1:58.931) eleventh fastest and Gábor Wéber (1:59.348) twelfth.
Thanks to the reversed grid, it will be the BMW 320 TC of Norbert Michelisz that will start Race 2 from pole position.
THE FIA PRESIDENT VISITS WTCC
The President of the FIA, Jean Todt, is paying a visit to the World Touring Car Championship in Monza.
Mr Todt, who was in Milan to attend the FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting, met the drivers and posed with them for a family picture in support of the Action for Road Safety campaign.
JOHN CLELAND FIRST DRIVER ADVISER
Just like Formula One, from this year an Adviser of the Stewards is being designated to join the Panel of the Steward at each WTCC event.
The first to fill this role is John Cleland, 59 years old from Scotland, one of the most successful and experienced touring car drivers in the Nineties. In his long career, Cleland claimed twice the British Touring Car Championship title..
FORD DRIVERS NARROWLY MISS Q2
James Nash and Tom Chilton qualified 14th and 15th in Q1 and narrowly missed out on the chance to progress to Q2. Both of the Ford Focus drivers were improving on their qualifying times as the clock ticked down towards the end of the Q1 session, but the red flags caused by Cerqui’s excursion at Parabolica with only two minutes left meant they finished the session outside the all-important top twelve places.
Team Aon are satisfied with its performance, however, with the team manager, Alan Cole, quoted as saying that it was a ‘very positive first qualifying experience’ since the team has already begun to close the gap to their far more experienced rivals.
THEY SAID, THEY SAID…
Gabriele Tarquini – pole position
“To be honest, I didn’t expect to be on pole after the problems we had on Tuesday; the car was actually assembled here in Monza so I only tested it for the first time on Thursday and I only did one lap this morning after we had some troubles. And the car felt really good. It’s great to be on pole, especially at my home track, but tomorrow I will discover just how competitive the car is!”
Yvan Muller – 2nd
“I’m not at all surprised by Gabriele’s performance - he may be old, but he’s still fast! He has a good car and a good team, but we’re also carrying some extra weight so I’m pleased with what we did today. Everything was perfect and, okay, I finished six hundredths of a second behind Gabriele, but I’m pleased with second place.”
Robert Huff – 3rd
“We had a really good strategy and all three of us worked well together, but it’s always difficult when you have a three-car train like that. I had to wait for the third lap until I could set a time and my tyres weren’t the best by then, but I’m happy with what we did. We’re in a great position to start the season with some useful points but we’ve got the dreaded reverse grid for race two which is sure to bring some entertainment.”
Pepe Oriola – 1st in Yokohama Trophy
“We didn’t expect to do so well, but it could be even better in the race; I had a gearbox problem on the last lap and I couldn’t select fourth gear, but I’m very happy with my position. Everybody is very quick here and several drivers, like Tiago Monteiro, helped me with a tow so I was able to make a quick time. I’m really looking forward to the races to see what I can do.”