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Norbert Michelisz takes first pole in 2017, as Volvo takes MAC3 honours

With the sun continuing to beat down on the Nordschleife ahead of qualifying for this weekend’s WTCC Race of Germany, as Honda’s Norbert Michelisz took his pole position of the year, ahead of second practice pace setter Nicky Catsburg by 0.608 seconds on his final attempt of the 40-minute session.

Rob Huff would complete a close top three in his Citröen C-Elyseé TC1, being just 1.469 seconds off the pace of the Hungarian, who picked up five points for his sterling effort towards pole position.

Current points leader Tiago Monteiro suffered damper issues in the latter part of qualifying, putting the Portuguese driver fourth, ahead of Thed Björk and top Sébastian Loeb Racing driver Tom Chilton.

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The session was delayed by 27 minutes, due to an incident in the first Audi Sport TT Cup race facilitating barrier repairs.

Track temperatures had increased since the final free practice session in the morning, with the likes of Tom Coronel having to cope with greater understeer.

Huff set the initial pace with a 8:42.541 with 29 minutes to go, having followed a train of cars led by the Civic Type-R of Michelisz, with Thed Björk, Nicky Catsburg and Tiago Monteiro in close proximity.

The Briton got the initial advance on the competition, before Catsburg again put his experience to good use to go even quicker than the Münnich Motorsport driver on his next attempt, posting a blistering 8:38.680 with 13 minutes left to go.

Nestor Girolami almost flirted with the barriers on his first run, going wide, but still managed to put his Volvo S60 Polestar TC1 to seventh, despite grass hitting the radiator grille and running with a broken front splitter.

The Argentine, whose car required fast repairs to get back out on track, was instructed by the team to not improve on his final attempt, putting him on the reverse grid pole for the opening race with tenth fastest.

Tom Coronel was also in the mix, putting his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet Cruze TC1 into seventh, ahead of Mehdi Bennani and Esteban Guerrieri, who lines up alongside Girolami on the front row for the opening race.

Ryo Michigami was 11th fastest on his Nordschleife début, with RC Competition’s Yann Erlacher battling through the practice sessions with power steering issues to put his Lada Vesta TC1 behind the Japanese driver.

France’s John Filippi was 13th, ahead of Kevin Gleason and the Zengo Motorsport pairing of Aurelien Panis and Daniel Nagy, with all rookies able to set a lap time around the 25.3km circuit.

“It was about time [to take another pole],” said Michelisz. “It’s an incredible feeling to be on pole here at the Nürburgring, as it’s really a special circuit. It’s a place where the driver can make the difference and I’m really proud of my last lap – I gave it everything and finally it was enough for pole!

“The car is feeling great – from the first moment I had the confidence. You saw in Monza and now here that we are arriving at a circuit which on paper is not suited to our car, but we are able to fight for front row starting positions and even pole, which is amazing and it gives us a huge confidence boost for the rest of the season.”

Meanwhile, Polestar Cyan Racing picked up another MAC3 win over Honda, despite both Monteiro and Catsburg having to drive their wounded cars over the one lap encounter.

Catsburg was ordered to move to the back of the trio, with both Björk and Girolami going ahead, being told that he “would set the pace” for the Swedish outfit.

Monteiro’s crew had no time to change the damper that was affecting the handling on his car, resulting in Volvo taking the win by 19.578 seconds at the finish, extending their lead to 14 points.

The Opening race gets the action at the Nürburgring Nordschleife at 1120 local time tomorrow (Saturday, May 27th), with the Main Race set to take place at 1245 local time.

Qualifying result

1 5 Norbert MICHELISZ Honda Racing Team JAS Honda Civic WTCC 3 8:38.072 0.000
2 63 Nicky CATSBURG Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 Polestar 3 8:38.680 0.608
3 12 T Rob HUFF ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 3 8:39.541 1.469
4 18 Tiago MONTEIRO Honda Racing Team JAS Honda Civic WTCC 3 8:40.202 2.130
5 62 Thed BJÖRK Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 Polestar 3 8:40.996 2.924
6 3 T Tom CHILTON Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 3 8:42.356 4.284
7 9 T Tom CORONEL ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 3 8:43.393 5.321
8 25 T Mehdi BENNANI Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 3 8:43.533 5.461
9 86 T Esteban GUERRIERI Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 3 8:43.689 5.617
10 61 Néstor GIROLAMI Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 Polestar 2 8:44.630 6.558
11 34 Ryo MICHIGAMI Honda Racing Team JAS Honda Civic WTCC 3 8:45.845 7.773
12 68 T Yann EHRLACHER RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC 2 8:45.925 7.853
13 27 T John FILIPPI Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 3 8:46.002 7.930
14 24 T Kevin GLEASON RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC 3 8:47.215 9.143
15 8 T Aurélien PANIS Zengő Motorsport Kft Honda Civic WTCC 3 8:51.021 12.949
16 99 T Dániel NAGY Zengő Motorsport Kft Honda Civic WTCC 2 8:54.909 16.837
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