Today’s qualifying session in Shanghai turned into a triumphal march for Chevrolet.
All the six drivers at the wheel of the Cruze cars monopolized the top six positions of the time sheet. Yvan Muller claimed his seventh pole position of the season, beating his RML team-mate Tom Chilton, Pepe Oriola, the bamboo-engineering duo of James Nash and Alex MacDowall (who will be fighting for the Yokohama Trophy title tomorrow) and WTCC returnee Rickard Rydell.
As for the others, they looked rather focusing on the ninth and tenth positions that are worth the front row for the second race’s grid. It will be Tiago Monteiro to start from pole in Race 2, with his team-mate Gabriele Tarquini alongside him.
Yvan Muller completed a lap of 1:54.132 late in the session beating Pepe Oriola’s provisional fastest lap of 1:54.225. Muller had opened hostilities with a lap of 1:54.658 in the early stages of the session, which was later beaten by Gabriele Tarquini who stopped the clock at 1:54.637.
The last five minutes were plenty of drama. Oriola posted his provisional fastest lap that was soon beaten by Muller. Alex MacDowall and Rickard Rydell were the last drivers to qualify for Q2 and they kicked off James Thompson and Tom Coronel respectively.
Both Tiago Monteiro (1:54.505) and Rob Huff (1:54.541) managed to improve their lap times before the end of the session and moved up to third and fourth respectively.
Franz Engstler was the only BMW driver to make to the top twelve.
Jerónimo Badaraco’s Chevrolet sat in the garage for the whole session due to a gearbox problem, while Stefano D’Aste was forced to slow down and pit because of a broken driveshaft.
Because Thed Björk’s Volvo was not eligible to qualify for Q2, only the following eleven drivers went through: Muller, Oriola, Monteiro, Huff, Tarquini, Nash, Rydell, Chilton, MacDowall, Michelisz and Engstler.
With a lap time of nearly two-minutes, all drivers had only one qualifying attempt to spend.
Yvan Muller settled the matter with an impressive 1:53.486 that improved the WTCC track record from last year by nearly one second. Five other Chevrolet drivers were classified behind him: Tom Chilton, Pepe Oriola, James Nash, Alex MacDowall and Rickard Rydell were all covered by four tenths of a second.
Norbert Michelisz’s Honda was the best of the rest in seventh position, followed by Rob Huff’s SEAT.
The Castrol Honda Team duo of Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini ranked tenth and ninth, meaning that they will share the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s second race.
Grid Penalty for the Volvo car.
Thed Björk and his Volvo C30 had been quite impressive today, being comfortably among the fastest cars in all the sessions. Taking into account that the Volvo was not eligible to advance to Q2, the qualifying results would meant the 12th position on the starting grid for both races.
Although the Swedish car was in compliance with the minimu weight when weighed during Q1, it was found underweight during the technical checks after the qualifying session and this resulted in a grid penalty.
As a consequence, Björk will be dropped by five places, down to 17th on the grid for tomorrow’s races.