Münnich Motorsport’s Gianni Morbidelli scored his first-ever World Touring Car Championship pole position at the Salzburgring, beating Citroën’s Yvan Muller by just 0.049 seconds.
Italian Morbidelli had been steadily improving throughout Saturday, posting the 12th fastest time in first practice and improving to fourth in second practice. The 46-year-old then went fastest in Q1 and third in Q2 was enough to give him a chance for his first pole, which he duly took.
“I am surprised but in the meantime I can only be happy because we [put in] an incredible performance,” said Morbidelli of his first pole. “We improve race after race and this important for me and the team.
“This means we are working well and we have to carry on in this way. Tomorrow will be a tough race – at least I have in my pocket this pole position.”
UPDATE – Morbidelli was subsequently handed a five-place grid penalty for having improved his time under waved yellow flag conditions, with the Italian losing pole to Muller.
José María López was fourth fastest – incredibly the Argentine’s worst qualifying performance of the year so far. López was clearly pushing in qualifying though, with a huge spin in Q1 testament to how close to the edge he was driving.
The second ROAL Chevrolet of Tom Chilton failed to make it into Q3 by 0.094 seconds, with the Brit blaming the missed opportunity on being held up by René Münnich.
Tiago Monteiro headed up a quartet of Hondas in seventh, with the two independent Civics of Proteam Racing’s Mehdi Bennani and Zengő Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz directly behind.
Gabriele Tarquini qualified in tenth and thus starts race two from pole position – with the three additional Hondas behind him no doubt coming as welcome relief.
Münnich himself missed out on the top ten by just over four tenths of a second and will start from 11th for both races.
There was a single red-flag stoppage during qualifying which came when Dusan Borkovic lost control of his Chevrolet in almost exactly the same place as team-mate Hugo Valente in qualifying. The Serb thus failed to post a time and starts both races from 12th, with the damage to his car not as severe as his team-mates.
All three LADAs once again missed out on Q2, although top driver James Thompson was just 1.170 seconds off the pace and 0.178 seconds from Q2 entry – a marked improvement for the Russian outfit.
Franz Engstler scored ‘pole’ in TC2 for his Team Engstler squad, ahead of Campos Racing’s John Filippi and Engstler’s Liqui Moly team-mate Pasquale di Sabatino.
Top ten times
|1||10||TC1||Gianni MORBIDELLI*||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||2||1:22.137||0.000|
|2||1||TC1||Yvan MULLER||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||2||1:22.186||0.049|
|3||9||TC1||Sébastien LOEB||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||2||1:22.363||0.226|
|4||4||TC1||Tom CORONEL||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||2||1:22.432||0.295|
|5||37||TC1||José María LÓPEZ||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||2||1:22.507||0.370|
|The below times are from Q2:|
|6||3||TC1||Tom CHILTON||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||6||1:22.565||0.480|
|7||18||TC1||Tiago MONTEIRO||Castrol Honda WTC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||7||1:22.790||0.705|
|8||25||TC1||Mehdi BENNANI||Proteam Racing||Honda Civic WTCC||6||1:22.866||0.781|
|9||5||TC1||Norbert MICHELISZ||Zengő Motorsport||Honda Civic WTCC||6||1:22.871||0.786|
|10||2||TC1||Gabriele TARQUINI||Castrol Honda WTC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||6||1:22.929||0.844|
* Gianni Morbidelli received a five-place grid penalty after qualifying for improving his time in Q1 under waved yellow flags.