First pole position at Macau for Yvan Muller. Tiago Monteiro, one second behind.
Yvan Muller on pole position is nothing new, as today the new WTCC champion scored his eighth pole of the season out of twelve qualifying sessions. However, this was his first pole position at Macau. The RML driver was superb throughout the whole day, steering clear of any possible problems or mistakes. First in Practice 1, second in Practice 2, first again in Q1 and Q2.
Besides the position, what impressed most was his pace that relegated his closest competitor, Tiago Monteiro, one second behind. However the combined results of the three Honda drivers (with Gabriele Tarquini third and Norbert Michelisz fifth) put the Japanese cars in a good position for the races.
Rob Huff tried everything to claim a fifth consecutive pole position in Macau, but eventually last year’s champion was forced to settle in fourth.
Alex MacDowall qualified sixth, and first of the Yokohama Trophy, while Tom Coronel ranked tenth and won pole position on the reverse grid for the second race.
In the early stages Muller was the first one to post a significant quick lap of 2:30.989; then Monteiro improved to 2:30.969 in the period between the first and the second red flag. Eventually Muller set the fastest lap of 2:30.142 just before the third interruption. In the five minutes left after the last red flag, a number of drivers managed to improve: Huff to second (2:30.700), Michelisz to third (2:30.945), Tarquini to seventh and Boardman who qualified in 12th and reached Q2 for the first time.
Tom Chilton joined the session thanks to a miracle performed by the RML crew that put the car in conditions to run after the spectacular crash in Practice 2. And this enabled Chilton to make to Q2 on his last attempt.
Surprisingly Pepe Oriola, who had been one of the fastest in the morning’s practice sessions, was kicked out of the top twelve right at the end of the session.
The session was disrupted three times by the red flag: the first time after Hugo Valente crashed at Paiol bend, then when Michael Soon (Valente’s team-mate at Campos Racing) dived into the tyre wall at the Fisherman’s bend and finally, with five minutes left on the clock, when Fredy Barth hit the wall at the Solitude Esses.
The following drivers went through to Q2: Muller, Huff, Michelisz, Monteiro, MacDowall, Thompson, Tarquini, Nash, Coronel, Chilton, Basseng and Boardman.
On the first timed lap Muller made clear that he was the man to beat for the pole, clocking the time of 2:29.770. Monteiro posted a provisional second fastest lap of 2:30.112 while Tarquini hit the wall and aborted what promised to be the second fastest lap.
On his second attempt Muller improved to 2:28.993, smashing the WTCC lap record by five tenths and leaving Monteiro one second behind.
Tarquini and Huff were able to climb to third and fourth, ahead of Michelisz and MacDowall who emerged as the best of the Yokohama Trophy.