Nathanaël Berthon secures double pole position after dominant qualifying display

Having shown great form during practice, Nathanaël Berthon secured pole position for two of tomorrow’s three World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) races set to take place at the Slovakiaring.

With the series using its three-phase knockout qualifying system this weekend, attention was initially on who would take pole for race one, with the starting grid being determined by the running order from the first knockout phase.

Berthon, who had been the pace-setter in free practice two, would claim the premier position on the starting grid with a lap time of 2 minutes 10.151 seconds. The time wasn’t quite as fast as he had managed earlier in the day, but it was still enough to win pole position for the opening race tomorrow, as well as an extra five championship points.

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Behind him, Nicky Catsburg seemingly found pace out of nowhere to go second fastest for Hyundai, joining Berthon on the front row of the grid for race one.

Jean-Karl Vernay went third quickest in his Alfa Romeo ahead of the Audi of Gilles Magnus, while the second Hyundai of Gabriele Tarquini took the final championship point from the first qualifying phase in fifth.

Just behind him in sixth, Norbert Michelisz made it three Hyundais on the first three rows of the grid for race one. The South Korean marque looked significantly quicker than it had done in earlier practice sessions, but with Catsburg and Luca Engstler continuing to find the gravel traps, it appeared as though their high-speed instability woes still hadn’t been fully resolved.

Beyond the top twelve, Tiago Monteiro was the first driver to be eliminated from qualifying in thirteenth, but the biggest story was the fall of championship leader, Yann Ehrlacher.

The Frenchman found himself in fifteenth place on the time sheets, meaning that he’ll start from the corresponding grid spot in all three races this weekend.

Moving onto phase two of qualifying, the session was temporarily halted very early on following a crash for Attila Tassi at turn two. Mimicking the accident of Gábor Kismarty-Lechner in free practice one, Tassi lost the rear of his car on the entry to the turn, pitching it into the inside barriers.

A red flag period ensued, before the session would eventually get back underway with just six and a half minutes left on the clock.

Until this point, Hyundai’s luck appeared to have changed for the better, but then as their three remaining contenders prepared to start a flying lap, Tarquini’s front splitter suddenly came loose. The Italian continued to circulate, but the resulting aerodynamic deficit would ruin his chances of reaching the top five shoot-out for race three pole.

It wasn’t all bad news for Hyundai though, as Nicky Catsburg and Norbert Michelisz managed to go first and third fastest respectively, securing their places in the all-important final phase of qualifying.

Gilles Magnus split the pair of them in second place, while Nathanaël Berthon and Tom Coronel made it three Audis in the top five.

Just missing out on the one-lap shoot-out for pole, Esteban Guerrieri will line up from sixth place in race three, having put together a time just one thousandth of a second quicker than that of Jean-Karl Vernay in seventh.

Santiago Urrutia will line up in eighth place as the best of the Cyan Racing Lynk & Co contingent, following the premature elimination of Ehrlacher, Yvan Muller and Thed Björk in phase one.

In tenth place meanwhile, Néstor Girolami will benefit from pole position for the reversed-grid second race on Sunday. Joining him on the front row of the grid for that race will be Team Mulsanne’s Luca Filippi, who ended the second phase of qualifying as the ninth fastest driver.

With the sun beginning to set, the top five drivers moved on to the final phase of qualifying. Gilles Magnus was first to stake claim at pole position for race three, but his lap time of 2 minutes 10.274 seconds wouldn’t be enough to stay on top.

But where one Audi driver failed, another would prosper. At the end of the shoot-out, Berthon’s time of 2 minutes 09.510 seconds – the fastest lap that anyone had recorded all weekend – would be good enough for his second pole position of the day.

Three tenths of a second further back, Norbert Michelisz would end up second quickest ahead of fellow Hyundai driver Nicky Catsburg in third. Tom Coronel wound up in fourth, around 35 thousandths of a second quicker than Gilles Magnus in fifth.

Q3 results

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 17 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 3 2:09.510 0.000
2 1 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 3 2:09.793 0.283
3 88 Nicky CATSBURG Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 3 2:09.881 0.371
4 31 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 3 2:09.939 0.429
5 16 Gilles MAGNUS Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 3 2:10.274 0.764

Q2 results

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 88 Nicky CATSBURG Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 5 2:09.586 0.000
2 16 Gilles MAGNUS Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 5 2:09.860 0.274
3 1 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 5 2:09.985 0.399
4 17 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 4 2:09.994 0.408
5 31 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 5 2:10.229 0.643
6 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 5 2:10.422 0.836
7 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR 4 2:10.423 0.837
8 12 Santiago URRUTIA Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 03 TCR 5 2:10.960 1.374
9 25 Luca FILIPPI Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR 4 2:11.068 1.482
10 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 5 2:12.393 2.807
11 30 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 5 2:14.195 4.609
12 9 Attila TASSI ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 1 No time N/A

Q1 results

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 17 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 7 2:10.151 0.000
2 88 Nicky CATSBURG Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 7 2:10.612 0.461
3 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR 7 2:10.615 0.464
4 16 Gilles MAGNUS Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 7 2:10.626 0.475
5 30 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 7 2:10.655 0.504
6 1 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 7 2:10.751 0.600
7 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 7 2:10.834 0.683
8 31 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 7 2:10.877 0.726
9 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 7 2:10.960 0.809
10 12 Santiago URRUTIA Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 03 TCR 8 2:11.027 0.876
11 9 Attila TASSI ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 7 2:11.076 0.925
12 25 Luca FILIPPI Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR 7 2:11.087 0.936
13 18 Tiago MONTEIRO ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 7 2:11.282 1.131
14 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR 8 2:11.348 1.197
15 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR 8 2:11.422 1.271
16 55 Bence BOLDIZS Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición 7 2:11.429 1.278
17 96 Mikel AZCONA Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición 6 2:11.732 1.581
18 22 Petr FULÍN VEXTA DOMY CUPRA Leon Competición 7 2:11.820 1.669
19 8 Luca ENGSTLER Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 7 2:11.836 1.685
20 34 Aurélien COMTE Vuković Motorsport Renault Mégane RS TCR 7 2:11.881 1.730
21 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 03 TCR 8 2:11.892 1.741
22 99 Gábor KISMARTY-LECHNER Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición 7 2:14.272 4.121
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