Yvan Muller will start the first WTCC race of the 2013 season from pole position after setting the fastest time (1:56.486) in Qualifying. His time is a new qualifying lap record for Monza and nearly 1.5 seconds faster than the previous record set last year by Gabriele Tarquini.
Behind the French driver on the grid will be two other Chevrolet Cruze cars of Tom Chilton and Alex MacDowall with the latter also the highest placed of the Yokohama Trophy contenders. Results remain provisional pending technical checks.
The season got off to a dramatic start when the SEAT of the reigning World Champion Rob Huff made contact with Fredy Barth’s BMW on the very first lap, leaving the León stranded on the circuit with broken front right suspension.
Once the red-flag period ended, it was Muller who set the early pace ahead of Michel Nykjær and Tom Chilton, but on lap 4 Aleksei Dudukalo collided with his LADA Sport Lukoil teammate James Thompson going into Turn 1 and so the Russian driver would play no further part in the session.
Thompson, though, was able to limp back to the pits so his mechanics could repair the damage and so he could start Q2. The following drivers went through to Q2: Muller, Chilton, Nykjær, MacDowall, Oriola, Nash, Tarquini, O’Young, Basseng, Thompson, Monje, D’Aste.
Muller’s pole-winning time occurred on only his second lap, with his RML teammate Tom Chilton (1:57.345) setting the second-fastest time on Lap 3. Alex MacDowall (1:57.685) was third quickest in the bamboo-engineering Cruze with Pepe Oriola’s SEAT (1:57.833) the best non-Chevrolet.
Tarquini’s Castrol Honda Civic (1:57.946) rounded off the top five, with James Nash (1:58.005), Michel Nykjær (1:58.172), Marc Basseng (1:8.518), James Thompson (1:58.669) and Darryl O’Young (1:58.781) completing the top ten.
Fernando Monje (1:58.814) was eleventh fastest and Stefano D’Aste (2:00.475) twelfth. Thanks to the reversed grid, it will be the BMW 320 TC of Darryl O’Young that will start Race 2 from pole position.
Grid penalties for Tarquini and Dudukalo
The Stewards of the meeting judged Gabriele Tarquini and Aleksei Dudukalo guilty for causing incidents during today’s qualifying session. Tarquini hit the SEAT of René Münnich at the Parabolica and sent him spinning onto the gravel trap.
Dudukalo missed the braking point at the first chicane and t-boned the LADA car of his own team-mate James Thompson. Both drivers were given a drop of five places on the grid for tomorrow’s Race 1.
This will demote Tarquini from fifth to tenth and Dudukalo from 16th to 21st.