Menu steals Sonoma pole position from Tarquini

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With a last gasp lap, Alain Menu claimed his fourth pole position of the season beating Gabriele Tarquini by two tenths of a second.

The Italian driver had set the benchmark with a very fast first lap and felt like he had wrapped pole position for good. However, the Chevrolet team managed to prepare their cars in time for a second attempt that eventually Menu exploited stealing the pole at the very last moment.

Yvan Muller, Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T, Chevrolet
Yvan Muller, Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T, Chevrolet

Photo by: Brad Fox

Tarquini and the Lukoil Racing Team tried to react, but when the SEAT was ready to leave the pit lane, it was too late for a last flying lap.

Although they also managed to improve, Yvan Muller and Rob Huff were not able to beat Tarquini’s time and qualified in second and third, ahead of the two best Yokohama Trophy competitors: Norbert Michelisz and Alex MacDowall.

A few drivers were disappointed by the results, as they did not manage to advance to Q2. Tom Coronel spoiled his Q1 by spinning on new tyres, Pepe Oriola could not make any better that 18th, and Team Aon team-mates James Nash and Tom Chilton were not able to repeat the good results they have had in Practice.

Stefano D’Aste and Mehdi Bennani qualified tenth and ninth, meaning a full BMW front row on the reversed grid for Race 2.

Qualifying 1

On his first lap Yvan Muller posted a provisional fastest lap of 1:46.572 that lasted for ten minutes, before Gabriele Tarquini improved to 1:45.947. Afterwards, the session was disrupted by the red flag with six minutes left on the clock, when Aleksei Dudukalo beached his SEAT at Turn 2.

As action resumed, the Chevrolet trio achieved significant improvements. Rob Huff jumped on top of the list with a lap of 1:45.710, but he was immediately demoted to second by Muller’s 1:45.556.

Gabriele Tarquini, SEAT Leon WTCC, Lukoil Racing Team
Gabriele Tarquini, SEAT Leon WTCC, Lukoil Racing Team

Photo by: xpb.cc

Alain Menu moved up to fourth (1:46.182) ahead of Tiago Monteiro (1:46.643). Surprisingly the BMW cars seemed much more at ease, after they had struggled in practice.

Stefano D’Aste, Norbert Michelisz, Franz Engstler and Mehdi Bennani occupied the positions from sixth to ninth, while Alberto Cerqui won the 12th and last slot for the Q2.

Alex MacDowall in 10th and Dudukalo in 11th completed the field of the drivers allowed to fight for pole position.

James Nash was the first of the excluded from Q2, in 13th position, only 0.024 seconds behind Cerqui. The following drivers adavanced to Q2: Muller, Huff, Tarquini, Menu, Monteiro, D’Aste, Michelisz, Engstler, Bennani, MacDowall, Dudukalo and Cerqui.

Qualifying 2

Three different drivers ousted each other from the top of the time sheet at the end of the first flying lap. Muller was the first one to take the lead with a lap of 1:45.608, then he was beaten by Menu’s 1:45.567 and eventually Tarquini posted a new provisional fastest time of 1:45.468.

The three Chevrolet drivers prepared for another attempt and hit the track all together. They all improved, but only Menu was able to beat Tarquini’s time posting a 1:45.232 that was good enough for the pole.

Muller and Rob Huff were classified third and fourth, while Norbert Michelisz qualified in fifth and best of the Yokohama Trophy, ahead of Alex MacDowall. FLASH NEWS

TEDESCHI CAME BACK TO THE TRACK

Proteam Racing’s Felice Tedeschi came back to the race track after the dramatic crash he had suffered in yesterday’s test session. The Italian driver was transferred to the hospital for medical checks after his BMW crashed into the wall and rolled at Turn 5. Luckily all the checks and scans turned negative and he was soon discharged.

THEY SAID, THEY SAID…

Alain Menu (pole position): “I was not happy with my second lap in Q1, as I have made mistakes in a couple of turns. We changed the car a bit for Q2 and my first lap was already a good one, but Gabriele (Tarquini) was able to be even faster. I was not sure I could improve, but I prepared for a second attempt. And that lap was perfect. The car was fantastic and I did not make mistakes, which was the key on this track.”

Gabriele Tarquini (2nd): “I lost pole position because of wrong calculation. My engineer and I were sure there was not enough time for a second run in Q2. But Chevrolet proved we were wrong. When they called me on the radio and asked me to return to the pits as fast as possible it was already too late. I went for my second attempt with two minutes left on the clock. I pushed and destroyed my tyres, but was not enough to beat the chequered flag. It was a shame, because my car had the pace to be on pole.”

Yvan Muller (3rd): “This is a track where it is very easy to make little mistake when you push to find the time. In my second run during Q2 I was very fast in the first sector, but I was not equally fast in the second and the third sectors. I made a couple of little mistakes, especially on Turn 9 and that cost me some times. For sure I had the car to be on pole position.”

Norbert Michelisz (1st in Yokohama Trophy): “I was very happy to be the fastest of the Yokohama Trophy. However, I have to say that I was not especially pleased to be 1.3 seconds off pole position. Frankly I expected this track to suit the BMW car better, but in this situation it seems like I cannot compete with the four cars at the front. I will be focusing on the fight for the Yokohama Trophy, taking into account that my closest competitor for the title, Oriola, had a poor qualifying.

Weather: sunny, the track was dry

Source: FIA-WTCC

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About this article
Series WTCC
Article type Qualifying report
Tags chevrolet, featured, gp2, huff, menu, muller, sears point, sonoma, tarquini, usa, wtcc

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