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WTCR - Happy Halloween for Michelisz and Magnus after Spain WTCR qualifying


2020 WTCR Race of Spain - Qualifying report

Norbert Michelisz claimed his first DHL Pole Position of the 2020 WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup season at MotorLand Aragón this afternoon, as Gilles Magnus profited from a penalty for Jean-Karl Vernay to land his maiden top start, with the Belgian set to line up in Race 3 at the front.

After Michelisz went quickest in Qualifying Q1, Vernay, on his 33rd birthday, set the pace in the five-way Qualifying Q3 shootout in his Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR by Romeo Ferraris, only for a track limits infringement at Turn 5 to result in his Q3 time being deleted and handing the DHL Pole Position for Race 3 to Magnus instead.

But while it was Halloween happiness for King of WTCR Michelisz (BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse) and WTCR Rookie Driver contender Magnus (Comtoyou Racing), it was a case of Halloween hell for title contenders Yann Ehrlacher and Esteban Guerrieri, who both failed to progress beyond Qualifying Q1.

Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Ehrlacher, driving for Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, was already on the backfoot after learning he would start Race 1 from the bottom of the pile following an engine-change penalty prior to the event. But in P13 he will also be up against it to extend his lead in both Race 2 and Race 3 as well. “I had a track limits violation on my first run and then a big vibration on my front left,” said the disappointed Frenchman.

Ehrlacher’s only consolation is that main title rival Esteban Guerrieri was slower, qualifying only in P19 − making it difficult for the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda driver to make up ground in the points. “It wasn’t a good session,” said Guerrieri. “We don’t have good potential this weekend, but we didn’t maximise what we had. I was compromised by a mistake on my first run and I started to get understeer, then on my last run I was on used tyres. It was a bit of a mess.”

King Michelisz back on top in WTCR

Hungarian hero Norbert Michelisz, the King of WTCR following his 2019 title triumph, set a time of 2m05.838s to score five points and secure the DHL Pole Position for Race 1 in his Goodyear-equipped Hyundai i30 N TCR.

It marks Michelisz’s first DHL pole of 2020 and his first since WTCR Race of Malaysia last year. The other points scorers in the top five were Magnus, Vernay, Gabriele Tarquini and CUPRA-powered home hero Mikel Azcona.

Thed Björk was sixth followed by Nathanaël Berthon, Santiago Urrutia, Luca Engstler and Bence Boldisz. Yvan Muller and Néstor Girolami also made it through to Q2 but Ehrlacher in P13, Tiago Monteiro, Aurélien Comte, wildcard Nicolas Baert, newcomer Josh Files, Tom Coronel, Guerrieri, Attila Tassi and Gábor Kismarty-Lechner all missed out on making further progress.

Magnus on form in Q2

RACB National Team driver Gilles Magnus was the fastest of the dozen drivers in the 10-minute Q2 session, to graduate to the Q3 shootout in his Audi RS 3 LMS. The 21-year-old Belgian was joined by Santiago Urrutia, Nathanaël Berthon − who jumped up the order to third after a late improvement. Norbert Michelisz was classified fourth after his disallowed lap time for an apparent track limits violation was reinstated. Vernay and Björk were fifth and sixth in the final order respectively followed by Muller, Tarquini, Engstler and Spain’s Mikel Azcona, whose capture of P10 hands him the reverse-grid pole for Race 2. Girolami and Boldizs ended up P11 and P12.

How the battle for the Q3 DHL Pole position unfolded

Vernay was the first to run in Q3, the Frenchman setting a benchmark time of 2m06.367s. Urrutia was next to go, the Uruguayan proving faster in the first sector, slower in the second, faster in the third − then slower in the fourth with a big lock-up at the final corner, leaving him 0.785s off Vernay’s time. “Stupid mistake,” said Urrutia. “But OK, I made it to Q3, which is important.”

Berthon was next to go, but was thwarted as he prepared for his run when a broken driveshaft forced him to pull over in his Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport entry. It was another blow for the Frenchman, who was second fastest in both free practice sessions, given that an engine change for the weekend means he will start Race 1 from the back of the grid.

Now Björk had his chance. The Swede put in a solid effort to go second to Vernay, with a time that left him 0.438s down on the Alfa Romeo.

That left Magnus as the final driver to run. The Belgian, who was fastest in both free practice sessions, didn’t have quite enough when it counted. His time was good enough to bump Björk from second, but was 0.233s slower than Vernay, whose DHL pole − and five points to go with the three he scored in Q1 − was secure prior to his post-session sanction.

Race 1 at WTCR Race of Spain takes place on Sunday morning at 09h15 local time.