Following the latest update to the FIA World Touring Car Cup balance of performance measures, it always looked like a strong bet to suggest an Audi driver would take pole position.
In the end, it was Frédéric Vervisch who claimed that honour, though the rest of the pack certainly gave Audi a good run for their money, with Vervisch only stealing pole away from Lynk & Co’s Thed Björk in the very final sector of qualifying.
If anything though, that will make the feat feel even sweeter for Vervisch, whose last WTCR pole position came way back at the 2019 Race of Morocco, with the Belgian having to sit out the 2020 season.
“I tried really hard to be here [in the WTCR paddock] last year but it was not possible for different reasons,” he explained. “So obviously I’m very happy to be back with this new car and it’s the first pole position for the new car, so it’s great for Audi, for us, the team as well.
“And I think Gilles [Magnus] proves it and Tom Coronel as well that they’re up there. It’s great for us, let’s say, but I have to be honest, I struggled a lot the first two weekends.
“We struggled a lot but maybe me a bit more and these are hard times. So this pole position, OK it’s not a victory, but it counts, it helps for the motivation.
“If you keep pushing we get some results, so hopefully we can convert it into some good points tomorrow.”
Indeed, with only nine championship points and not a single top ten finish to his name heading into this Spanish event, it’s been anything but plain-sailing for Vervisch so far in 2021. So for that reason, the Belgian will be relieved to prove to himself more than anyone else that the problems have lied with the car, rather than his unquestionable talent.
“I was very happy with that. It was for me almost a perfect lap,” Vervisch said about his pole lap. “It can always be better, but I’m sure these [other] guys would say exactly the same.
“You know, it’s quite a mental game the whole qualifying session. You have nowhere else [to go]. I’m not so used to it any more, but it’s a good challenge against yourself and you are always happy when you do one lap, you do a good lap, and then you say oh my god I have to do it again and maybe even better.
“And that is very challenging, so I’m very happy with today.”
The job is far from over however. In fact, it has only just begun. Come race day, Vervisch and the rest of the Audi squad are likely to have a tough time on their hands, as both Lynk & Co and Hyundai look as though they’ll be able to get in the mix for wins here this weekend. As a result, Vervisch remains cautious about his chances of converting pole to victory.
“It’s always difficult. We have a Lynk & Co next to us and you know they really have strong race pace,” he said. “For me this is quite a challenge, so for sure we need to see.
“But we have the speed on one lap, that’s already very good and I think if Gilles and I work together we should stay where we are in the race.”
Vervisch and Magnus will be aiming to put that teamwork to good use in tomorrow’s feature race, which is set to get underway at 13:15 local time (12:15 BST). But before then, they’ll have to survive the carnage of the reversed-grid opener, which gets underway earlier in the morning at 11:15 local time.