Record-breaking pace as Muller takes last-gasp Macau pole

Record-breaking pace as Muller takes last-gasp Macau pole

Yvan Muller set a new lap record in the final moments of qualifying to set pole position for the opening FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race in Macau.

The Frenchman set a best time of 2:28.661 in the slipstream of Lynk & Co teammate – and nephew – Yann Ehrlacher around the 3.8-mile street circuit to deny BRC Hyundai racer Norbert Michelisz by 0.068 seconds at the chequered flag.

The Hungarian will start from the outside of the front row and has a potentially crucial advantage over chief title rival Esteban Guerrieri, who could only manage a frustrating 13th in the Munnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R.

In a frantic start to the session, four different drivers – Ehrlacher, Nicky Catsburg (BRC Hyundai), Thed Bjork (Lynk & Co) and finally Muller held top spot before Medhi Bennani’s SLR Volkswagen crashed and brought out the red flags.

Up until that point, Michelisz’s third place was the only saving grace among a top five dominated by the Lynk & Co 03 TCR.

The order switched around again after a short stoppage, with Michelisz the first man to break into the 2:28s.

That benchmark looked likely to hand the Hungarian his first pole position since Vila Real, but Muller’s last-gasp effort proved enough to deny him.

On both previous occasions this season Muller has started from top spot – both at Ningbo – he converted them into victory; ominous indeed on a tight street circuit where overtaking opportunities are likely to be at a premium.

Andy Priaulx (Lynk & Co) and Kevin Ceccon (Team Mulsanne) both similarly improved late on to lock down the second row of the grid, with Ehrlacher rounding out the top five ahead of teammate Bjork.

Serial Macau winner Rob Huff and SLR VW stablemate Benjamin Leuchter were split either side of reigning champion Gabriele Tarquini in seventh, eighth and ninth respectively; Mikel Azcona’s PWR Racing CUPRA TCR rounds out the top ten.

Frederick Vervisch’s Audi RS 3 LMS came next, then Catsburg after dropping down the order. The aforementioned Guerrieri was 13th, with stand-in Robert Dahlgren 14th and Tiago Monteiro 15th.

Jean-Karl Vernay was another driver in strife after sliding into the barriers at Melco Hairpin – he starts 17th regardless; WRT teammate Gordon Shedden is just 24th.

Second qualifying on the streets of Macau is due to start at 05:35 (UK time).

Qualifying result

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 11 2:28.661 0.000
2 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 13 2:28.729 0.068
3 111 Andy PRIAULX Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 13 2:28.806 0.145
4 31 Kevin CECCON Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 13 2:28.846 0.185
5 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 10 2:28.942 0.281
6 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 11 2:29.060 0.399
7 12 Rob HUFF SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 12 2:29.451 0.790
8 1 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 13 2:29.470 0.809
9 33 Benjamin LEUCHTER SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 12 2:29.660 0.999
10 96 Mikel AZCONA PWR Racing CUPRA TCR 13 2:29.683 1.022
11 22 Frédéric VERVISCH Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 11 2:29.709 1.048
12 88 Nicky CATSBURG BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 12 2:29.770 1.109
13 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR 12 2:29.833 1.172
14 2 Robert DAHLGREN PWR Racing CUPRA TCR 12 2:29.891 1.230
15 18 Tiago MONTEIRO KCMG Honda Civic Type R TCR 10 2:29.919 1.258
16 14 Johan KRISTOFFERSSON SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 10 2:30.039 1.378
17 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 12 2:30.200 1.539
18 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR 12 2:30.353 1.692
19 55 Ma QING HUA Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 11 2:30.445 1.784
20 21 Aurélien PANIS Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing CUPRA TCR 12 2:30.462 1.801
21 25 Mehdi BENNANI SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 9 2:30.788 2.127
22 9 Attila TASSI KCMG Honda Civic Type R TCR 12 2:30.835 2.174
23 10 Niels LANGEVELD Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 11 2:30.867 2.206
24 52 Gordon SHEDDEN Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 12 2:30.888 2.227
25 6 Luca ENGSTLER BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 2:31.533 2.872
26 50 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing CUPRA TCR 12 2:31.608 2.947
27 19 Jim KA TO KC Motorgroup Honda Civic Type R TCR 13 2:33.654 4.993
28 36 Billy LO Kai Fung Tian Shi Zuver Team Audi RS3 LMS TCR 6 2:34.791 6.130
29 98 James TANG Chi Lun Team TRC Honda Civic Type R TCR 13 2:36.795 8.134
30 59 Kwai Wah WONG Son Veng Racing Team Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 10 2:39.999 11.338
31 97 Terence TSE Kin Leung Team TRC Honda Civic Type R TCR 6 2:43.146 14.485
32 99 Arthur LAW Tia Fan Team TRC Honda Civic Type R TCR 0 No time N/A