Comtoyou Racing’s Mehdi Bennani secured his first-ever pole position in the FIA World Touring Car Cup at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, a mere 0.015 seconds ahead of fellow Audi driver Gilles Magnus.
The qualifying session had been earlier pushed back in the timetable slightly to enable drivers to take part in a short 15-minute additional test session, which was implemented following Stewards Decision 1.
That decision was made due to issues with several Goodyear tyres in Thursday’s practice running, prompting Goodyear to bring in a different batch of tyres overnight produced during a different build period.
The session opened with a Cyan Racing 1-2-3 as Santiago Urrutia was the first to top the times with a lap of 8 minutes 51.637 seconds, just 0.079 seconds ahead of team-mate Yann Ehrlacher and Thed Björk in third.
However, the Lynk & Co drivers only managed one lap, whilst the Audi drivers stayed out for three laps in total in the half-hour session.
Münnich Motorsport’s Néstor Girolami had been set to come close to the then-fastest time on his second lap, but approaching the final section of the lap at Tiergarten the front-right wheelarch of his car ripped off, losing him over a second on his lap.
Towards the end of the session, the leading Lynk & Co drivers had to decide whether to take to the track for another effort, opted not to, which proved costly, with a clearly frustrated Ehrlacher staying in the pits.
On their final flying lap, the Audi duo of Magnus and Bennani went out on to the Nordschleife together, with the latter benefitting from a huge slipstream from his Belgian team-mate along Döttinger Höhe.
That gave the Moroccan his first WTCR pole by a slender 0.015 seconds, demoting the lead Lynk & Co of Urrutia to the second row of the grid, over a second back.
Ehrlacher thus qualified in fourth, the reigning champion furious with the decision not to complete more than one lap.
Mikel Azcona was the best of the BRC Hyundai drivers in fifth, just under two seconds adrift, deposing Thed Björk on his final flying lap to leave the Swede in sixth.
Nathanaël Berthon was seventh in his Audi, ahead of the best Honda of Néstor Girolami in eighth.
After his wheel arch earlier came off, Girolami pitted for repairs and did make it on track for another attempt, but that was scotched when Zengő Motorsport’s Rob Huff crashed at Metzgesfeld, prompting a Code 60 and the inability for Girolami to push through the sector.
Completing the top ten were the Hyundai of Norbert Michelisz and the Lynk & Co of Yvan Muller.
That gives Muller pole position for the partially-reversed race two grid, with Michelisz starting alongside him for that race.
Ma Qing Hua ended up in 11th, with Huff still qualifying as the best CUPRA in 12th, despite his crash.
Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri will be disappointed to qualify down in 13th, over three seconds off the pace, with the Liqui Moly Team Engstler Honda of Attila Tassi for company in the seventh row of the grid.
Similarly likely to be disappointed, Tom Coronel was only 15th in his Audi, four seconds off his team-mates, ahead of the Honda of Tiago Monteiro in 16th.
Race one is scheduled to get underway at 10:00 CEST (09:00 BST) on Saturday morning.
|1||25||Mehdi BENNANI||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR 2021||3||8:50.527||–|
|2||16||Gilles MAGNUS||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR 2021||3||8:50.542||0.015|
|3||12||Santiago URRUTIA||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||1||8:51.637||1.110|
|4||68||Yann EHRLACHER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||1||8:51.716||1.189|
|5||96||Mikel AZCONA||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||2||8:52.512||1.985|
|6||11||Thed BJÖRK||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||1||8:52.568||2.041|
|7||17||Nathanaël BERTHON||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR 2021||2||8:52.602||2.075|
|8||29||Néstor GIROLAMI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR||2||8:52.650||2.123|
|9||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||2||8:52.923||2.396|
|10||100||Yvan MULLER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||2||8:53.060||2.533|
|11||55||MA Qing Hua||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||2||8:53.069||2.542|
|12||79||Rob HUFF||Zengő Motorsport Services Kft||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||1||8:53.813||3.286|
|13||86||Esteban GUERRIERI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR||2||8:53.958||3.431|
|14||9||Attila TASSI||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR||2||8:54.318||3.791|
|15||33||Tom CORONEL||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR 2021||2||8:54.647||4.120|
|16||18||Tiago MONTEIRO||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR||2||8:55.425||4.898|
|17||99||Dániel NAGY||Zengő Motorsport Services Kft||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||2||9:01.188||10.661|