Rob Huff moved another small step closer to his first WTCC title by winning pole position today at Macau and stretching his championship lead by two and one further points ahead of Alain Menu and Yvan Muller.
Once again the Chevrolet team made a clean sweep, placing their three drivers on top of the qualifying sheet. Huff’s pole position was not unexpected, as he had been the fastest in both today’s free practice sessions and had also been on pole at Macau in the three previous years.
Gabriele Tarquini put in a solid performance as he qualified fourth, and best of the rest on his last appearance at the wheel of a SEAT car, while his 2013 team-mate Tiago Monteiro claimed a brilliant fifth, the best qualifying result for Honda since they joined the championship one month ago at Suzuka.
Once again, local hero Darryl O’Young shone in qualifying, winning his third consecutive pole position in the Yokohama Trophy at Macau, ahead of Norbert Michelisz and Mehdi Bennani. An outstanding result considering that his bambooracing crew had worked all night to rebuild his car after yesterday’s crash.
Tomorrow WTCC drivers will enjoy a day off, before hitting the track again for the two final races of the season on Sunday.
On their first lap out of the pits the Chevrolet trio set provisional fastest laps: Rob Huff’s 2:31.540 was improved by Alain Menu’s 2:31.490 and by Yvan Muller’s 2:30.950. While Menu and Muller did not go for a second quick lap, Huff did and improved to 2:30.903 that was not to be beaten, also because the session was redflagged four minutes before the end when Fred Barth’s SEAT crashed at the Police bend.
Tiago Monteiro managed to squeeze among the Chevrolet drivers, posting the third fastest lap of 2:31.366.
In the minutes before the red flag, Gabriele Tarquini (2:31.868) and Pepe Oriola (2:32.698) made the top-twelve (in fifth and ninth position respectively), kicking Barth and Tom Coronel out.
As the session restarted for the final four minutes, Coronel had his last chance to make it to Q2, but the Dutchman was stuck behind Mehdi Bennani and when he managed to overtake the Proteam driver he stopped on the track due a broken driveshaft.
Darryl O’Young was the only local driver to win a place in Q2, ranking sixth and best of the Yokohama Trophy with a lap of 2:32.066, while André Couto crashed his Sunred León at Moorish Hill.
The following drivers advanced to Q2: Huff, Muller, Monteiro, Menu, Tarquini, O’Young, Michelisz, MacDowall, Oriola, D’Aste, Bennani and Engstler.
Once again, on their first lap out of the pits, the Chevrolet men were able to lock the first three positions of the grid for Sunday’s Race 1.
Muller was the first one to cross the line, clocking a 2:30.361 that was immediately beaten by Huff’s 2:29.422, while Menu’s time of 2:30.507 placed him third.
Most of the positions were decided in the first run, except for Monteiro who aborted his first lap, but kept on running instead of pitting for new tyres. The Honda driver was able to move up to tenth on his second lap and then to fifth on his third lap (2:31.539).
Monteiro was sandwiched by Tarquini in fourth (2:30.936) and O’Young in sixth (2:31.643) and on pole for the Yokohama Trophy.
On the second run, Muller, Menu and Tarquini improved their laps times but not their positions.
Alex MacDowall qualified tenth, meaning that he will start from pole position on the top-ten reverse grid for Race 2, alongside Pepe Oriola.
TEAMS AT WORK OVERTIME
The Guia circuit is treacherous, and every year WTCC drivers have to cope with the risks of hitting the walls at high speed. And this often results in teams working overtime to repair the cars in time for the next session.
The bamboo-engineering crew worked flat for fifteen hours – between 3.00pm on Thursday afternoon to 6.00am on Friday morning – to fix Darryl O’Young’s Chevrolet following the crash occurred at the Mandarin Oriental bend during the test session.
On Friday morning it was the turn of ROAL Motorsport to repair damage on Kei Cozzolino’s BMW, after he hit the wall at the Paiol bend during the first practice. Cozzolino was forced to skip the second practice but joined for the qualifying.
IT’S RAINING PENALTIES ON LOCAL RACERS
A rain of penalties has hit the local drivers after today’s qualifying session. Mak Ka Lok, Célio Alves Dias, Filipe De Souza, Ng Kin Veng and Henry Ho have all been punished for not stopping at the weighing bay.
This resulted in the cancellation of the best qualifying time for Alves Dias, while Mak, De Souza and Ng had all their times disallowed.
However they have all been authorized to start the races from the back of the grid.
THEY SAID, THEY SAID…
Rob Huff (pole position): “It was a fantastic result. Macau is my favourite track and to claim a fourth consecutive pole position here is a dream. Once again the team did an amazing job and my car was perfect from the beginning. This is all I needed to do: a better starting position and a few more points compared to my team-mates. But here anything may happen, and generally it does. And we have seen that one race weekend can change the whole frame, as it happened to Yvan in China.”
Yvan Muller (2nd): “I am pleased with my second position. Yesterday I was not happy with my car, this morning it was the same but we improved step by step, although not enough to win the pole. However to be on the front row is good. I did not regret for any mistake. I had clear laps and was pleased with my times. I don’t think I could be faster than I was. It was the best me and my car could do.”
Alain Menu (3rd): “Obviously I wanted to fight for the pole. And after Q1 I was confident I could make it. But Rob did a great lap. My goal is still to win the races here. Third is not a bad position, especially with the rolling start. I may benefit from the slipstream, but I’m sure that Rob and Yvan know how to keep their positions at the front…”
Darryl O’Young (1st in Yokohama Trophy): “I’m happy. It was my best result this year and I have to thank the team for this, because yesterday I made a mistake and they worked until six o’clock this morning to repair my car. They did a fantastic job that enabled me to achieve this result. For Sunday, my target is to stay off troubles at the start and have a couple of clean races.
Weather: overcast and windy, the track was dry