Néstor Girolami heads Münnich 1-2 in red-flag interrupted Pau qualifying

Néstor Girolami beat Münnich Motorsport team-mate Esteban Guerrieri to pole position in a red-flag interrupted FIA World Touring Car Cup qualifying session on the streets of Pau in France.

After the Lynk & Co 03 of Santiago Urrutia had topped the times in both of the earlier free practice sessions, much was expected of the Cyan Racing cars come qualifying.

However, in the first part of the session, Q1, it was Hyundai’s Mikel Azcona who posted the top time, edging out the Honda of Girolami, as Urrutia narrowly avoided missing out on progressing with the 12th fastest time.

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Q2 was little more than a few minutes old when Thed Björk heavily crashed his car at the final chicane, the Cyan Racing driver having clipped the wall on the inside before bouncing hard into the barriers on the outside.

That required a one-hour stoppage as officials worked to repair the safety barrier, which had been left with a gaping hole in it after the Swede’s shunt.

When track action resumed at just past seven in the evening, Yvan Muller and team-mate Yann Ehrlacher held the early advantage.

But as drivers finally put in flying laps, the two dropped down the order, neither able to improve their times.

Muller dropped to fourth and just stayed in to progress to Q3, but a clearly disappointed Ehrlacher slipped to sixth, ending up four tenths from the Q2 pace.

In Q3, Guerrieri opted to go first and posted a benchmark time which was marginally slowe than his Q2 effort.

Girolami immediately followed and went a tenth and a half quicker with a time of 1 minute 19.783 seconds, which proved to be the best time, giving the Argentine a fourth WTCR pole position of his career.

Muller was the closest challenger to the Hondas in third, over half a second adrift, whilst Audi’s Nathanaël Berthon – whose late improvement to second in Q2 dumped Ehrlacher out of Q3 – could only manage fourth.

Cyan Racing’s Ma Qing Hua was fifth, over a second off the pace after the Chinese ace had to save two huge slides on his single flying lap.

Ehrlacher’s Uruguayan team-mate Santiago Urrutia was equally frustrated, managing only seventh having set the benchmark prior to the session.

Azcona was the best of the BRC Racing Hyundai drivers in eighth, with Engstler Motorsport’s Attila Tassi and Hyundai’s Norbert Michelisz completing the top ten, he latter despite a brush with the barriers early on in the restarted Q2 which required a visit to the pits for hasty tape repairs.

That means Michelisz will start the partially-reversed second race from pole position, with Tassi for company on the front row of the grid.

As may have been predicted after their lack of pre-season testing, neither Zengő Motorsport CUPRA progressed beyond Q1, with Rob Huff only just missing the cut in 13th.

The returning Mehdi Bennani was 14th in his Comtoyou Racing Audi, ahead of the slowest Honda of Team Engstler’s Tiago Monteiro in 15th, the Portuguese actually being one of only four drivers with previous touring car experience of the circuit.

Comtoyou Racing’s Tom Coronel was 16th, ahead of Zengő’s Dániel Nagy and wildcard entry Eric Cayrolle in 18th at the bottom of the times.

Race one is scheduled to get underway at 13:10 CEST (12:10 BST) on Sunday.

Q3 results

POS NO NAT DRIVER ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic TCR 3 1:19.783
2 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic TCR 3 1:19.937 0.154
3 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 3 1:20.361 0.578
4 17 Nathanaël BERTHON COMTOYOU DHL TEAM AUDI SPORT Audi RS3 LMS 3 1:20.629 0.846
5 55 MA Qing Hua Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 3 1:20.901 1.118

Q2 results

POS NO NAT DRIVER ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic TCR 8 1:19.851
2 17 Nathanaël BERTHON COMTOYOU DHL TEAM AUDI SPORT Audi RS3 LMS 9 1:20.118 0.267
3 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic TCR 9 1:20.148 0.297
4 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 6 1:20.226 0.375
5 55 MA Qing Hua Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 8 1:20.261 0.410
6 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 6 1:20.264 0.413
7 12 Santiago URRUTIA Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 7 1:20.273 0.422
8 96 Mikel AZCONA BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 8 1:20.288 0.437
9 9 Attila TASSI Liqui MolyTeam Engstler Honda Civic TCR 7 1:20.373 0.522
10 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 7 1:20.419 0.568
11 16 Gilles MAGNUS COMTOYOU TEAM AUDI SPORT Audi RS3 LMS 8 1:20.616 0.765
12 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 2 No time N/A

Q1 results

POS NO NAT DRIVER ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 96 Mikel AZCONA BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 15 1:20.178
2 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic TCR 13 1:20.187 0.009
3 16 Gilles MAGNUS COMTOYOU TEAM AUDI SPORT Audi RS3 LMS 12 1:20.192 0.014
4 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic TCR 12 1:20.242 0.064
5 55 MA Qing Hua Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 10 1:20.318 0.140
6 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 10 1:20.326 0.148
7 17 Nathanaël BERTHON COMTOYOU DHL TEAM AUDI SPORT Audi RS3 LMS 12 1:20.370 0.192
8 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 14 1:20.400 0.222
9 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 10 1:20.448 0.270
10 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 9 1:20.502 0.324
11 9 Attila TASSI Liqui MolyTeam Engstler Honda Civic TCR 13 1:20.522 0.344
12 12 Santiago URRUTIA Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 11 1:20.524 0.346
13 79 Rob HUFF ZENGÖ MOTORSPORT SERVICES KFT Cupra Leon Competicion TCR 16 1:20.587 0.409
14 25 Mehdi BENNANI COMTOYOU TEAM AUDI SPORT Audi RS3 LMS 17 1:20.707 0.529
15 18 Tiago MONTEIRO Liqui MolyTeam Engstler Honda Civic TCR 17 1:20.832 0.654
16 33 Tom CORONEL COMTOYOU DHL TEAM AUDI SPORT Audi RS3 LMS 14 1:20.855 0.677
17 99 Dániel NAGY ZENGÖ MOTORSPORT SERVICES KFT Cupra Leon Competicion TCR 17 1:21.052 0.874
18 64 Eric CAYROLLE COMTOYOU TEAM AUDI SPORT Audi RS3 LMS 16 1:21.857 1.679
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