Tiago Monteiro secured his first FIA World Touring Car Cup pole position in the first qualifying session at Suzuka, giving Honda pole at the marque’s home circuit and the venue of Monteiro’s racing return last year.
On a wet circuit in the pouring rain, Monteiro proved he was able to master the tricky conditions by being on top of the times for much of the red-flag interrupted session, initially going quickest after four minutes with a lap of 1 minute 1.512 seconds.
The red flags flew for the first time after just six and a half minutes when PWR Racing’s Daniel Haglöf spun off at the last of the ‘S’ Curves, ending the CUPRA driver’s session.
There was just two minutes of track action when the session resumed before the session was stopped again after Tom Coronel aquaplaned into fellow CUPRA racer Mikel Azcona, curtailing the session of both drivers.
“I just aquaplaned,” explained Coronel. “I was on the outside of Panis and I braked off line on the outside and I just couldn’t stop the car.
“It’s very, very, very dodgy weather out there.”
After a lengthy delay to recover the two cars, the session then lasted just a further three minutes before Cyan Racing’s Yvan Muller, who had just gone third fastest, aquaplaned off into the barriers at Turn 1.
Muller’s Lynk & Co picked up substantial front damage after impacting the tyres, ending his session as another 15-minute stoppage followed.
Track action resumed with 18 minutes to go and ran uninterrupted for the next 15 minutes, with times starting to tumble inside the final ten minutes.
Andy Priaulx was the first to better Monteiro’s time, before both Frédéric Vervisch and Gabriele Tarquini then moved to the top of the times, the former with a time of 1:00.146 seconds.
Monteiro then went even quicker a minute later with his time of 59.713 seconds, ending up just over a tenth ahead of fellow Honda driver Esteban Guerrieri.
Néstor Girolami followed his Münnich Motorsport team-mate to qualify in third and make it a Honda 1-2-3 at the top of the times, whilst
Monteiro’s KCMG team-mate Attila Tassi had been fourth fastest with five minutes to go, but the young Hungarian caused a late red flag when he went off into the gravel and had his best time deleted, leaving him in 24th.
First practice pace-setter Niels Langeveld continued his good form to end as the top Audi driver in fourth, ahead of Comtoyou Racing team-mate Vervisch in fifth.
Tarquini was the best of the Hyundais in sixth, ahead of an impressive showing by wildcard entry Ritomo Miyata in seventh in his Audi.
Thed Björk was the best of the Lynk & Co Cyan Racing drivers in eighth, over half a second off the pace, whilst the top ten was completed by his team-mate Andy Priaulx and SLR’s Johan Kristoffersson.
Championship leader Norbert Michelisz was just 14th quickest after failing to get a handle on the conditions, with track space also at a premium on the short 2.243 km circuit.
Qualifying for races two and three is scheduled to get underway at 15:30 local time (07:30 BST, 08:30 CEST).
|1||18||Tiago MONTEIRO||KCMG||Honda Civic Type R TCR||21||0:59.713||0.000|
|2||86||Esteban GUERRIERI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R TCR||19||0:59.841||0.128|
|3||29||Néstor GIROLAMI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R TCR||24||0:59.967||0.254|
|4||10||Niels LANGEVELD||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||23||1:00.039||0.326|
|5||22||Frédéric VERVISCH||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||19||1:00.146||0.433|
|6||1||Gabriele TARQUINI||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||Hyundai i30 N TCR||22||1:00.201||0.488|
|7||77||Ritomo MIYATA||Audi Team Hitotsuyama||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||22||1:00.204||0.491|
|8||11||Thed BJÖRK||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||24||1:00.281||0.568|
|9||111||Andy PRIAULX||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||21||1:00.293||0.580|
|10||14||Johan KRISTOFFERSSON||SLR Volkswagen||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||22||1:00.335||0.622|
|11||33||Benjamin LEUCHTER||SLR Volkswagen||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||24||1:00.336||0.623|
|12||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||22||1:00.412||0.699|
|13||31||Kevin CECCON||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||23||1:00.470||0.757|
|14||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||Hyundai i30 N TCR||20||1:00.504||0.791|
|15||68||Yann EHRLACHER||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||19||1:00.546||0.833|
|16||7||Ryuichiro TOMITA||Audi Team Hitotsuyama||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||21||1:00.628||0.915|
|17||88||Nicky CATSBURG||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||18||1:00.652||0.939|
|18||55||Ma QING HUA||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||21||1:00.713||1.000|
|19||12||Rob HUFF||SLR VW Motorsport||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||23||1:00.726||1.013|
|20||21||Aurélien PANIS||Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing||CUPRA TCR||21||1:00.774||1.061|
|21||19||Jim KA TO||KC Motorgroup||Honda Civic Type R TCR||23||1:00.997||1.284|
|22||52||Gordon SHEDDEN||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||23||1:01.084||1.371|
|23||8||Augusto FARFUS||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||18||1:01.086||1.373|
|24||9||Attila TASSI||KCMG||Honda Civic Type R TCR||18||1:01.102||1.389|
|25||25||Mehdi BENNANI||SLR VW Motorsport||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||23||1:01.279||1.566|
|26||96||Mikel AZCONA||PWR Racing||CUPRA TCR||4||1:02.096||2.383|
|27||100||Yvan MULLER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||9||1:02.688||2.975|
|28||50||Tom CORONEL||Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing||CUPRA TCR||7||1:02.769||3.056|
|29||37||Daniel HAGLÖF||PWR Racing||CUPRA TCR||5||1:03.185||3.472|