Gabriele Tarquini will start from pole position in the first of tomorrow’s two FIA WTCC races at the Slovakia Ring. Alongside him on the grid will be his Castrol Honda team-mate Tiago Monteiro after the pair dominated both parts of the two-stage Qualifying session.
Making it an all-Honda top three will be Norbert Michelisz, who qualified just twelve-hundredths of a second slower than Monteiro. This was Tarquini’s and Honda’s second consecutive pole position after Marrakech.
The leading Yokohama Trophy competitor will be Alex MacDowall, whose bamboo-engineering Chevrolet Cruze qualified sixth. Thanks to the reversed grid, it will be the BMW 320 TC of Tom Coronel that will start Race 2 from pole position.
Qualifying 1 - The session got off to a dramatic start when the BMW of Darryl O’Young made heavy contact with the barrier on the outside of Turn 9 after only around five minutes.
The incident brought out the red flags and, after a pause of around half an hour, the session resumed with O’Young having been taken to the circuit medical centre for a precautionary check-up.
Tarquini and Monteiro were soon lying first and second, with the two RML Chevrolet Cruze cars of Yvan Muller and Tom Chilton third and fifth and the driver who was on pole position for the first WTCC race here last year, Norbert Michelisz, sandwiched between the pair in fourth.
The following drivers went through to Q2: Tarquini, Monteiro, Muller, Michelisz, Chilton, MacDowall, Huff, Nykjær, Oriola, Nash, Coronel and Bennani.
Qualifying 2 - Tarquini’s pole-winning time (2:10.773) occurred on his first flying lap, with Monteiro (2:10.877) also setting his best time on the same lap. Michelisz (2:10.889) was third quickest in the Zengö Motorsport Honda Civic with Muller’s Chevrolet (2:10.941) the best non-Honda.
Chilton (2:11.162) rounded off the top five, with Alex MacDowall (2:11.422), Rob Huff (2:11.624), James Nash (2:11.714), Pepe Oriola (2:11.882) and Tom Coronel (2:12.048) completing the top ten. Mehdi Bennani (2:12.857) was eleventh fastest and Michel Nykjaer (2:17.614) twelfth.
Grid penalties for Huff and Monje
Rob Huff and Fernando Monje will be all dropped on the grid for tomorrow’s first race. Huff will lose ten places because his car failed the ride height check during today’s qualifying. Monje will be demoted five places following the penalty he was given for colliding with James Thompson’s LADA during the second race at Marrakech.
Gabriele Tarquini – pole position: “This is a dream. I never dreamed of a 1-2-3 here in the Slovakia Ring! We tested here and we used the experience we had, but I didn’t expect to be on pole. I had some small electronic problems in both practice sessions, but the car was really fantastic in qualifying. I decided to use a new set of tyres for my first lap after the red flag and I was surprised by the time. Now we start to think about the races and we simulated a long run in the test here. At least we have three chances to win for Honda and I think for sure one of us can win the first race tomorrow.”
Tiago Monteiro – 2nd: “After two difficult events, now we are back in a very strong position. We had a great car right from the start of the weekend. I’m really happy and I hope we can convert this into points tomorrow. We haven’t really thought about a race strategy yet, so we have the whole afternoon now to think about it. I’m really happy to be so close to Gabriele and learning from him but tomorrow is a different story. He knows me and he knows I will be trying in the races, but we are professionals and we will fight hard but fair!”
Norbert Michelisz – 3rd: “I was not happy at all this morning because we had some problems with the car. The main problem was the lack of track time, but we had some good laps with the car towards the end of practice 2 and I was quite confident for qualifying because I knew the set-up was working. I thought I could get into the top ten quite easily, but I wasn’t expecting to be third.”
Alex MacDowall – 1st in Yokohama Trophy: “I think we have to be very happy, considering last year we didn’t even make it into Q2. Slovakia has to be one of my bogey tracks, but I did a lot of work on the simulator before coming out here to see where I could gain a little time. I made a small mistake in FP2 so we didn’t really get a good understanding of where we were. I had a good lap in Q1, which meant I could go into Q2 with a better set of tyres; it wasn’t a perfect lap but it was a safe lap and so P6 is okay.”