Gabriele Tarquini has taken the first pole position of the 2012 World Touring Car Championship season – lapping faster than works Chevrolet drivers Yvan Muller, Rob Huff and Alain Menu for the first time all weekend.
Tarquini set the time of 1:57.915 on his first flying lap in Q2. It is the Lukoil Racing Team driver’s first pole position since Valencia in 2010 and also the first non Chevrolet pole position in thirteen races. The three works Chevrolet drivers worked together to try to beat the Italian’s time, but despite running in close formation were unable to topple him.
Tarquini himself was appreciative of Tom Coronel, who qualified sixth, for his tow. “I don’t have a big team like in the past, so you must find a good slipsteam and fortunately I had a good tow from Tom [Coronel]. Tom helped me for more than half a lap and when he moved back I tried to give him back on the second lap. I was lucky to find someone in front of me.
Yvan Muller will line up second on the grid after setting a time just 0.059 seconds slower than Tarquini. “We carry some extra weight so I am quite pleased with the result we did today,” said Muller. “We went [according to] the plan and everything was perfect. I am pleased with second place, definitely.”
Rob Huff was third fastest, with Alain Menu fourth. Menu had initially been the quickest driver despite towing his team-mates around, but was unable to improve late in the session.
Rickard Rydell made it four Chevrolet Cruze’s in the top five on his return to the WTCC with fifth. Alongside him on the grid will be Tom Coronel in sixth.
Pepe Oriola was seventh fastest and the best of the Yokohama Trophy drivers, although the Tuenti Racing Team driver had threatened to go faster, having briefly topped the times in Q1. He will be joined on the fourth row of the grid by Alex MacDowall.
Aleksei Dudukalo was ninth fastest, easily his best qualifying performance since joining the WTCC at the start of 2011. Norbert Michelisz was tenth fastest in Q2 which means that the Hungarian driver will start from pole position for race two tomorrow as the new qualifying format sees the top ten reversed.
The new qualifying rules for 2012 also see 12 drivers allowed into Q2, although the grid is only reversed for the top ten. This means that Stefano D’Aste and Gábor Wéber will start from 11th and 12th respectively for the second race.
The results of Q1 mean that Fran Engstler will line up 13th with top Team Aon driver James Nash alongside. Tom Chilton was 15th and Tiago Monteiro 16th.
Q1 was red flagged with just under two minutes to go when Alberto Cerqui spun and got stuck in the gravel. The young Italian had already posted a time good enough for 17th on the grid, alongside fellow Italian rookie Pasquale Di Sabatino.