Yvan Muller has taken pole position for the final FIA World Touring Car Cup race of the year, while Audi locked-out the reverse-grid with Frederic Vervisch and Gilles Magnus.
On a damp, mixed surface, Muller did the best initial job of extracting pace out of his car, going fastest after the first tour of the circuit. Behind him, fellow Lynk & Co driver Santiago Urrutia slotted into second, ahead of Esteban Guerrieri in third. Series leader Yann Ehrlacher also found himself in the top five, while Jean-Karl Vernay was performing better than we had seen earlier in practice to go fifth.
The Frenchman was then knocked out of the points-paying positions by CUPRA’s Rob Huff, who rose up to third, while the Brit’s team-mate Mikel Azcona also progressed to sixth.
Around this long layout, it was imperative to make the most of the time available, with the number of laps possible much fewer than normal. That was particularly true for none other than Vervisch – Audi’s hope for the WTCR drivers’ title. With just a handful of minutes left remaining, the Belgian found himself way down in sixteenth position and crucially, in the elimination zone. After an unsuccessful venture on slick tyres, Vervisch now just had one chance to qualify for phase two of qualifying, after swapping over to a set of wets.
However, it was Azcona who set the timesheets alight instead, going fastest of all – but only temporarily. Just seconds later, Muller reclaimed the top position again, with a lap time three tenths of a second quicker than the Spaniard’s.
Vervisch meanwhile, scraped into the all-important top twelve right at the death of the session, moving up to tenth place albeit 1.8 seconds away from Muller’s benchmark. Behind Muller and Azcona, Urrutia ended phase one in third, while Huff and Nathanael Berthon scored the final points available.
Honda’s title contender Guerrieri went sixth-quickest in phase one of qualifying, while Hyundai’s challenger Jean-Karl Vernay wound up eighth. Sandwiched in between them was the driver they’re all chasing – Yann Ehrlacher. Magnus finished up in ninth ahead of team-mate and compatriot Vervisch, while Norbert Michelisz and Nestor Girolami were the final drivers to progress.
Elsewhere, Gabriele Tarquini didn’t get the final qualifying result that he would have hoped for. He’ll start both of the final races of his career from sixteenth on the grid. Another surprise elimination was that of Thed Bjork, down in eighteenth, while the wildcard Ladas of Kirill Ladygin and Mikhail Mityaev were way off the pace in 20th and 21st respectively.
Onto phase two then, and it was Ehrlacher who picked up where his uncle Muller left off. The latter of the two Frenchmen, meanwhile, bailed on his lap with just a few minutes to go in order to switch over to a set of slicks, as did Gilles Magnus – a huge risk having not set a lap time with just seconds left on the clock. In the meantime though, it was Berthon, Girolami, Azcona and Guerrieri who would be progressing into the Q3 pole shoot-out.
The gamble paid off for Muller, but only just, as he climbed up into fourth, knocking Guerrieri into the elimination zone. Behind the Argentine, Huff finished qualifying in seventh ahead of Vernay in eighth. Vervisch and Magnus rounded out the top ten, securing a front-row lock-out for Audi in tomorrow’s reversed-grid race.
Urrutia and Michelisz will start both races from eleventh and twelfth on the grid.
As the third and final phase of qualifying got underway, the rain began to trickle down from the clouds, and so Ehrlacher chose to run first in order to make the most of the driest conditions possible.
A neat and tidy drive from Ehrlacher resulted in a benchmark of 02:31.887; not a stellar lap time, but a steady one.
Next up was Berthon, who was up on Ehrlacher’s time by two tenths of a second after just the first sector. The gap only extended from there, and by the end of the lap, the Audi driver had cleared Lynk & Co’s star man by a huge 1.6 seconds.
Lynk & Co would be able to retaliate straight away however, as Muller was the next competitor to undertake his single-lap attempt for pole. At the end of sector one, Muller was more than three tenths of a second up on Berthon, highlighting the gulf back to championship points leader Ehrlacher. In the end, Muller pulled a monster lap out of the bag; a 02:29.624.
The penultimate challenger for pole was CUPRA’s Azcona, and after a bit of a loose start to his lap, the TCR Europe champion was two tenths of a second down on Muller after that first sector. He followed this up with a purple sector two, but in the end it wouldn’t quite be enough, slotting in between Muller and Berthon for second place on the grid.
So, it all came down to Girolami. However, from the get-go, the Honda didn’t quite look like it had the pace required for pole, and in the end would only pull out a lap time good enough for third, albeit with a purple sector three.
With that, Muller earned the final WTCR pole position of the year, and he’ll be joined on the front row by Azcona. Girolami and Berthon form row two, while championship leader Ehrlacher will have to settle for fifth.
Race one begins tomorrow at 12:15 local time (09:15 GMT). With 50 points left available, Vernay is now officially out of the title hunt, while Ehrlacher’s significant 37-point lead makes him the stand-out favourite to retain his title.
|1||100||Yvan MULLER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||3||2:29.624||–|
|2||96||Mikel AZCONA||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||3||2:29.972||0.348|
|3||29||Néstor GIROLAMI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||3||2:30.069||0.445|
|4||17||Nathanaël BERTHON||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||3||2:30.285||0.661|
|5||68||Yann EHRLACHER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||3||2:31.887||2.263|
|1||68||Yann EHRLACHER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||3||2:30.674||–|
|2||17||Nathanaël BERTHON||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||4||2:30.843||0.169|
|3||29||Néstor GIROLAMI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||3||2:30.888||0.214|
|4||100||Yvan MULLER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||4||2:30.909||0.235|
|5||96||Mikel AZCONA||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||4||2:30.969||0.295|
|6||86||Esteban GUERRIERI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||3||2:30.970||0.296|
|7||79||Rob HUFF||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||4||2:31.085||0.411|
|8||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||3||2:31.112||0.438|
|9||22||Frédéric VERVISCH||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||4||2:31.221||0.547|
|10||16||Gilles MAGNUS||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||4||2:31.654||0.980|
|11||12||Santiago URRUTIA||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||4||2:31.819||1.145|
|12||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||4||2:32.511||1.837|
|1||100||Yvan MULLER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||5||2:30.412||–|
|2||96||Mikel AZCONA||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||6||2:30.724||0.312|
|3||12||Santiago URRUTIA||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||5||2:31.215||0.803|
|4||79||Rob HUFF||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||7||2:31.284||0.872|
|5||17||Nathanaël BERTHON||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||7||2:31.318||0.906|
|6||86||Esteban GUERRIERI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||5||2:31.458||1.046|
|7||68||Yann EHRLACHER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||5||2:31.606||1.194|
|8||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||6||2:31.819||1.407|
|9||16||Gilles MAGNUS||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||7||2:31.824||1.412|
|10||22||Frédéric VERVISCH||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||7||2:32.218||1.806|
|11||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||6||2:32.365||1.953|
|12||29||Néstor GIROLAMI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||6||2:32.543||2.131|
|13||9||Attila TASSI||ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||6||2:32.573||2.161|
|14||28||Jordi GENÉ||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||6||2:32.741||2.329|
|15||8||Luca ENGSTLER||Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||6||2:32.762||2.350|
|16||3||Gabriele TARQUINI||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||6||2:32.811||2.399|
|17||32||Tom CORONEL||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||7||2:32.964||2.552|
|18||11||Thed BJÖRK||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||7||2:33.135||2.723|
|19||55||Bence BOLDIZS||Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||7||2:33.781||3.369|
|20||20||Kirill LADYGIN||ROSNEFT LADA SPORT||LADA Vesta Sport TCR||7||2:34.448||4.036|
|21||30||Mikhail MITYAEV||ROSNEFT LADA SPORT||LADA Vesta Sport TCR||6||2:36.019||5.607|
|22||18||Tiago MONTEIRO||ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||0||No time||N/A|