SEAT and Yvan Muller qualify ahead of their WTCC rivals in Macau
SEAT and Yvan Muller have given themselves the best opportunity to win the 2007 FIA World Touring Car Championship for both Manufacturers' and Drivers' by qualifying ahead of their rivals at Macau today. Two SEAT Leon TDIs have qualified ahead of the best-placed BMW, while Yvan has qualified 2nd, 10 places ahead Andy Priaulx, the driver he shares the lead of the Championship with entering the final two races of the season in China tomorrow.
Yvan held pole position for the majority of the 45 minute qualifying session, setting the best time on three separate occasions. Having already set the fastest time in Free Practice 1, Yvan was the first driver out on the 6.1km Guia street circuit during qualifying. He set a target time of 2:33.733 and after Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT Leon TDI) gave him a tow down the 2km flat-out section for the second time, Yvan regained pole in the closing stages with a 2:31.395 best -- breaking the pole record of 2.31.712. At the very end of qualifying, Alain Menu (Chevrolet) set a 2:31.209, just 0.186 quicker than Yvan.
Gabriele set the fastest time in Free Practice 2 and will line up 3rd on the second row of the grid after an equally impressive performance in qualifying, alongside Augusto Farfus (BMW).
Jordi Gene clipped a wall on his first flying lap and the team did a superb job to repair the rear suspension and send him out in time to ensure all three SEAT Leon TDIs will start from the first three rows of the grid.
Tiago Monteiro was the fastest petrol-engined SEAT Leon in qualifying, while Rickard Rydell used his three sets of tyres to set his best times in the early part of qualifying, and couldn't benefit from the faster track conditions later in the session.
Michel Jourdain Jr's first visit to Macau ended in Free Practice 1 when he hit a wall on the outside of a left hand corner on a very narrow section of the circuit (after Paiol and before Faraway on the run down to the Melco Hairpin). His SEAT Leon rebounded across the track, completely blocking it, and was then hit side on by fellow Macau debutant Pierre-Yves Corthals, who was following closely behind. Corthals' car hit Michel's door, structurally damaging the safety roll cage.
SEAT Belgium did a fantastic job to repair Corthals' SEAT Leon in time for Free Practice 2, and he went out and set the best Independent Trophy time. A minor transmission problem limited his qualifying to just two flying laps, but he still qualified ahead of his main rival in the Independent Trophy, Stefano D'Aste (BMW).
Driver quotes Yvan Muller: (SEAT Leon TDI no 12): "I was on pole for a long time, but what's more important than pole is the Championship and Andy Priaulx is a long way behind me and two SEATs are in front of the first BMW. Gabriele was a big help today and gave me two fantastic tows down the straight that helped me set those quick times, so I must thank him. In the first race we have to try and stay out of trouble, and the best way to do that is to start from the front row, which is what we will do."
Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT Leon TDI no 11): "It was a great team job today. I gave Yvan a tow, but it wasn't quite enough for him to get pole. I had two mechanical problems in qualifying, one with the gearshift and one with the steering box, so I know my car is faster than this and so I am very optimistic about tomorrow."
Tiago Monteiro (SEAT Leon no 18): "It was a good qualifying session because I had no big issues. I didn't manage to get a tow because we got caught in some traffic, and that cost use six-tenths down the straight. I was P3, P6 and finally P9. I said this morning that if I qualified in the top ten I'd be happy, and we have done that."
Jordi Gene (SEAT Leon TDI no 9): "I am really happy to qualify sixth, because it was a dramatic qualifying session. I can't remember pushing so hard and driving on the limit like that. I had a big moment on my first flying lap and clipped a wall, and the mechanics did a fantastic job to repair the rear suspension and get me out on the track again. I didn't have many runs; one lap I crashed, one lap I had no tow and then finally at the end it all came right with a train of Leons."
Michel Jourdain Jr (SEAT Leon no 10): "I hit a wall on the outside of a left hand corner at a very narrow section of the circuit and spun back sideways across the track. I thought I was going to stay on the right and be okay, and so did Pierre-Yves Corthals who was following me, but I bounced off the wall and stopped sideways in the track. Pierre could not avoid me and collided with my door. Unfortunately the safety roll cage has been damaged and it cannot be repaired."
Rickard Rydell (SEAT Leon no 88): "I didn't make the best of qualifying because I did all my quick laps too early in the session. Sometimes in Macau it's better to get your fast laps in early because there can be a lot of yellow flags, but this time it didn't happen like that. When the track was faster towards the end of the session I didn't have any new tyres left and I couldn't improve my time. I'm still pleased with my pace and it's been a great day for the team."