At the wheel of the Castrol-Civic WTCC Gabriele Tarquini will start on row 3 having finished the qualifying in 6th position.
The Honda Civic of Norbert Michelisz will be gambling for a podium result in Race 1 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship around the fearsome tight street circuit on the gambling resort island of Macau. The young Hungarian has proved highly competitive since the moment the WTCC cars took to the track for testing on Thursday and set the fastest time in Q1 before finally winning through to the 5-car shoot out to determine the top 5 starting positions. Going first in Q3, Norbi put in a super clean lap to set 4th fastest time of the qualifying to start Race 1 on the 2nd row.
"I was pleased to again be the fastest of the Hondas and getting to Q3. I did my lap without any mistakes which is important here as it is so narrow and the walls are very hard! Maybe this is enough for a podium tomorrow. The balance of the car was good, but we can improve. We will adapt the setup for the race, to drive more easily," said the driver of Zengõ Motorsport.
This is a fantastic track but there is only one possible line and the risks are great.
The Civics of Gabriele Tarquini and Castrol Honda team-mate Tiago Monteiro are immediately behind Michelisz on row 3 and 4 having finished the qualifying in 6th and 7th places respectively. Gabriele had set fastest time in Free Practice 1 but could not maintain this advantage as qualifying progressed.
"I try as hard as possible as always for the times. I am happy with the car in Q1 and Q2. Our target and the potential can be seen, we are almost on the top in free practice. The others improved more than us," said the experienced Italian.
For Tiago Monteiro, Macau is always a gamble. "This is a fantastic track but there is only one possible line and the risks are great. We get so few laps.The gap is closer to the competition but not enough to finish higher. I made a small mistake in Q2 which actually looked a big slide on TV!" smiled the Portuguese at the end of qualifying.
For Shanghai winner Mehdi Bennani qualifying did not work out well and he finished in 13th position having proved quick in the test sessions. "I'm disappointed of course. My target was top 10 and the pole for race 2. Tomorrow, we will have a very nice race and I will go for the big attack!"
For Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC development from Honda R&D the race performance is the most important. "After Suzuka we made some small changes. The gap between the four Civics is closer, and I'm very happy with the good result of Norbert Michelisz in Q3. We know that the car is a lot quicker in race configuration."
Equally optimistic for the race is Alessandro Mariani, Managing Director of J.A.S. Motorsport. "Looking back at the great results in Shanghai and Suzuka we know that in the race we can be faster and compensate for the fact that we didn't finish well today. The difference between us and the others is small. We are looking forward to the races here in Macau."
Startgrid Race 1 (Provisional):
1. José Maria Lopez (ARG) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 2.24.294 ; 2. Sébastien Loeb (F) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 2.24.522; 3. Yvan Muller (F) , Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 2.24.779; 4. Norbert Michelisz (HUN), Honda Civic WTCC, 2.25.327; 5. Tom Coronel (NL) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1; 6. Gabriele Tarquini (I) Honda Civic WTCC, 2.25.769; 7. Tiago Monteiro (PRT) Honda Civic WTCC, 2.25.825; 8. Rob Huff (GB) Lada Granta 1.6T, 2.25.866; 9. Tom Chilton (GB) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 2.26.187; 10. Hugo Valente (F) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 2.26.204; 11. MA Qing Hua (CHN) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 2.26.535; 12. Gianni Morbidelli (I) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1, 2.26.911 ; 13. Mehdi Bennani (MAR) Honda Civic WTCC, 2.27.630; etc.