Kevin Ceccon secured the first pole position for himself, Team Mulsanne and Alfa Romeo in the main qualifying session for the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) at Suzuka, beating the Hyundai of Gabriele Tarquini by over half a second.
Ceccon – who had earlier in the day qualified in second in the first qualifying session – was easily fastest in the all-important Q3 session at the Japanese circuit, following up his pace-setting Q2 lap with a time good enough for a first career pole in Q3.
BRC Racing’s Tarquini therefore had to settle for second, but with the Italian being the only one of the title contenders making it through to Q3 he has secured an important four points in his championship challenge to extend his advantage to 11 points.
DG Sport’s Aurélien Comte, who claimed pole position in the day’s earlier qualifying session for race one, made a mistake on his Q3 lap, sliding his Peugeot through the Spoon curve and costing him time such that he was third, nine tenths off the pace.
Münnich Motorsport’s Yann Ehrlacher was the leading Honda driver in fourth, a slither over a second off the pace, whilst Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani was a distant fifth after the Volkswagen driver made several mistakes on his solo run.
The best of the Audis driver to make it through into the top 12 was Comtoyou Racing’s Aurélien Panis, who ended up in sixth, out-performing all of his stable-mates for the first time this season.
The second BRC Racing Hyundai of Norbert Michelisz was seventh, ahead of Comtoyou Racing’s Denis Dupont in eighth.
Rob Huff put his SLR Volkswagen in ninth, whilst Campos Racing’s Pepe Oriola completed the top ten and secured the reverse-grid pole position for race two, although the Spaniard posted an identical lap time to Esteban Guerrieri and only secured the position by virtue of having clocked his lap first.
That left Münnich Motorsport’s Guerrieri with 11th, although the Honda driver had a controversial incident in Q2. The Argentine was passing YMR’s Yvan Muller on his out-lap when the two made contact approaching the hairpin, causing Guerrieri to spin and Muller to go off the circuit.
In the end Muller did not post a lap time, having had his only, slow, lap time in Q2 disallowed for exceeding track limits, leaving the Frenchman to start from 12th for both races on Sunday.
The biggest loser in Q1 was arguably YMR’s Thed Björk, who ended up in 13th when a red-flag with 29 seconds left in the session, due to a dislodged tyre stack at the chicane, curtailed his efforts to improve his time.
The Swede had just seconds earlier been knocked out of the top 12 when Ceccon sneaked into the top 12 just seconds before the stoppage.
Boutsen Ginion Racing’s best-placed driver was Tiago Monteiro, who bagged 16th on his return to competition after over a year of recovery.
Following their dominant displays in China earlier in the month, neither WRT Audi driver was on the pace once again in qualifying, with Yean-Karl Vernay in 17th and Gordon Shedden down in 20th.
Whilst his team-mate took the glory, series newcomer Luigi Ferrara qualified his Alfa Romeo in 21st on his first visit to the Suzuka circuit.
Race one takes place at 14:05 local time (06:05 BST, 07:05 CEST) on Saturday.
|1||31||Kevin CECCON||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||3||2:10.742||0.000|
|2||30||Gabriele TARQUINI||BRC Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||3||2:11.441||0.699|
|3||7||Aurélien COMTE||DG Sport Compétition||Peugeot 308 TCR||3||2:11.635||0.893|
|4||68||Yann EHRLACHER||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||3||2:11.746||1.004|
|5||25||Mehdi BENNANI||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||3||2:13.608||2.866|
|1||31||Kevin CECCON||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||3||2:11.045||0.000|
|2||7||Aurélien COMTE||DG Sport Compétition||Peugeot 308 TCR||3||2:11.502||0.457|
|3||30||Gabriele TARQUINI||BRC Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||4||2:11.525||0.480|
|4||68||Yann EHRLACHER||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||4||2:11.566||0.521|
|5||25||Mehdi BENNANI||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||4||2:11.637||0.592|
|6||21||Aurélien PANIS||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS||3||2:11.853||0.808|
|7||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||4||2:11.855||0.810|
|8||20||Denis DUPONT||Audi Sport Team Comtoyou||Audi RS3 LMS||3||2:11.886||0.841|
|9||12||Rob HUFF||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||3||2:11.981||0.936|
|10||74||Pepe ORIOLA||Team Oscaro by Campos Racing||CUPRA TCR||3||2:12.001||0.956|
|11||86||Esteban GUERRIERI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||3||2:12.001||0.956|
|12||48||Yvan MULLER||YMR||Hyundai i30 N TCR||4||Disallowed||N/A|
|1||30||Gabriele TARQUINI||BRC Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||7||2:11.686||0.000|
|2||31||Kevin CECCON||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||6||2:11.707||0.021|
|3||68||Yann EHRLACHER||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||7||2:11.750||0.064|
|4||12||Rob HUFF||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||7||2:11.778||0.092|
|5||48||Yvan MULLER||YMR||Hyundai i30 N TCR||7||2:11.840||0.154|
|6||7||Aurélien COMTE||DG Sport Compétition||Peugeot 308 TCR||6||2:11.851||0.165|
|7||86||Esteban GUERRIERI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||7||2:11.855||0.169|
|8||74||Pepe ORIOLA||Team Oscaro by Campos Racing||CUPRA TCR||7||2:11.991||0.305|
|9||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||7||2:11.995||0.309|
|10||25||Mehdi BENNANI||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||7||2:12.101||0.415|
|11||20||Denis DUPONT||Audi Sport Team Comtoyou||Audi RS3 LMS||7||2:12.198||0.512|
|12||21||Aurélien PANIS||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS||6||2:12.270||0.584|
|13||11||Thed BJÖRK||YMR||Hyundai i30 N TCR||7||2:12.302||0.616|
|14||22||Frédéric VERVISCH||Audi Sport Team Comtoyou||Audi RS3 LMS||6||2:12.326||0.640|
|15||70||Mat’o HOMOLA||DG Sport Compétition||Peugeot 308 TCR||5||2:12.365||0.679|
|16||18||Tiago MONTEIRO||Boutsen Ginion Racing||Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||7||2:12.454||0.768|
|17||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||Audi RS3 LMS||7||2:12.555||0.869|
|18||42||Timo SCHEIDER||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||6||2:12.614||0.928|
|19||23||Nathanaël BERTHON||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS||7||2:12.664||0.978|
|20||52||Gordon SHEDDEN||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||Audi RS3 LMS||7||2:12.702||1.016|
|21||16||Luigi FERRARA||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||7||2:12.792||1.106|
|22||27||John FILIPPI||Team Oscaro by Campos Racing||CUPRA TCR||6||2:13.084||1.398|
|23||9||Tom CORONEL||Boutsen Ginion Racing||Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||6||2:13.151||1.465|
|24||8||Norbert NAGY||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA TCR||8||2:13.270||1.584|
|25||66||Zsolt Dávid SZABÓ||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA TCR||3||2:15.297||3.611|