“I know that at Suzuka overdriving is punishing!” said Norbert Michelisz after claiming his second pole position in WTCC after Slovakia Ring last year. And his words clearly explained why a few top guns failed today during their last attempt in Q2
It doesn’t happen very often to see Yvan Muller, Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro committing mistakes all in the space of a few seconds. But they overdrove and paid it dearly.
Michelisz gave Honda pole position on its home circuit, beating a quartet of Chevrolet cars that was led by Alex MacDowall – the fastest in the Yokohama Trophy – and Tom Chilton.
They formed one of the youngest trio ever seen on top of WTCC qualifying, at an average of 26 years.
BMW men Mehdi Bennani and Tom Coronel happily settled in tenth and ninth positions, meaning that they will start from the front row on the reverse grid for tomorrow’s Race 2. And this gives them a serious chance to fight for victory.
Yvan Muller completed a lap of 53.228 late in the session beating Norbert Michelisz’s provisional fastest lap of 53.341.
The dying moments were plenty of drama once again. Gabriele Tarquini and Tom Coronel improved to third and fourth respectively, while James Nash got away from an uncomfortable 12th position and climbed to fifth.
Local drivers Hiroki Yoshimoto in the Nika Racing Chevrolet and Takuya Izawa in the third works Honda spoiled their chances to make the cut with mistakes on their last attempt.
James Thompson was the last one to join the top twelve and denied Charles Ng his first trip to Q2.
The following drivers went through to Q2: Muller, Michelisz, Tarquini, Coronel, Nash, Chilton, Monteiro, Oriola, Bennani, Thompson, MacDowall and Huff.
The first stint nearly established the whole ranking. Norbert Michelisz completed a perfect lap and broke the 53-second wall for the first time in this weekend. His 52.886 was good enough for pole position and was only a thousandth of a second slower that Alain Menu’s WTCC lap record from last year.
Most of the drivers committed mistakes while trying to improve during their second attempt – including Yvan Muller, Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro.
Only Alex MacDowall was able to better and climbed to second with a lap of 53.011, relegating Tom Chilton (53.101) to third.