Mehdi Bennani described his Nürburgring Nordschleife qualifying lap as ‘the lap of my life’ after he claimed his maiden FIA World Touring Car Cup pole position on Friday.
Making his return to WTCR in 2022, Bennani is now part of the Belgian Comtoyou Racing Audi team, and had been one of the form drivers early in the weekend, going fifth fastest in first practice before improving to second in the second session on Thursday.
In Friday’s qualifying session, Bennani had been tenth early on in qualifying, before gaining from a slipstream from team-mate Gilles Magnus on his final flying lap to secure pole.
However, Bennani only just managed the feat – emerging a mere 0.015 seconds quicker than Magnus around the 25.4 km circuit.
“I’m very happy to be there, to be present, around these top drivers at this world championship level,” said a delighted Bennani, who took his first pole since his front-row in TCR Europe in 2020 at Spa-Francorchamps.
“For sure, the lap was crazy. I had almost the lap of my life. I had a very good team-mate in front of me to give me a nice slipstream!
“The car looks very strong on this track. I think the development that Audi with Comtoyou has done with a lot of testing at this track has paid off a lot.
“The drivers know how to set up the cars, how to use, where the grip level [is]. For me I only had to drive, which was not easy after stopping for three years! But it was working well, and I think the car helps a lot here.
“I was much more surprised about the high-speed level we can have in the high-speed corners. The corners that are tricky; every time you are on the limit and I think the car with the aero works very well in these parts. So really it was the lap of my life.
Bennani joked that the last time he had earned a front-row WTCR starting position was when he and Rob Huff infamously crashed in 2019, when he raced with Sébastien Loeb Racing.
“I’m very happy to be there in the front row with my team-mate. The last time we had the front row with my team-mate it was not the best race we had in Vila Real!
“But now I think the rules will be nice and I think also the team makes very good strategy and organisation around the team to not have any difference between the drivers.”