Alain Menu is on pole for Race 1 at Tianma

Chevrolet driver Alain Menu has kept his slim championship hopes alive by claiming his fourth pole position of the season, lapping Shanghai’s twisty Tianma circuit quickest in a wet-dry qualifying session today.

His team-mate Robert Huff emerged as the luckiest driver in qualifying, squeaking onto pole for tomorrow’s second race, while also securing a front-row start alongside Menu for tomorrow’s first race.

The first phase of qualifying saw drivers greeted with a damp – but steadily drying – circuit. Teams and drivers were faced with a tough choice: gamble on more rain and run a wet set-up, or ride out the worst of the conditions with a dry set-up and time your final lap to perfection in the hope of sneaking into the top-ten phase of qualifying.

Those who opted for the wet set-up were in the wrong. Drifting exponent Charles Ng couldn’t control his wayward DeTeam KK BMW and slid into the Turn 1 gravel less than five minutes into proceedings. It brought out the red flags and meant that the Hong Kong driver would take no further part in proceedings.

The grid’s two normally-aspirated runners, Fabio Fabiani (Engstler BMW) and Philip Ma (Proteam BMW) were unable to post qualifying times within 107% of the fastest session time, but (along with Ng) have been given dispensation to start both races tomorrow in light of the conditions encountered in qualifying.

Another team to fall foul of the conditions was the Bamboo Chevrolet outfit, with Darryl O’Young only 18th-fastest, while team-mate Yukinori Taniguchi was slower in 19th.

By far the biggest casualty was Robert Dahlgren in the Volvo, who consigned himself to two difficult races tomorrow by qualifying a mere 13th-fastest.

With just a minute to go in the opening session, all three factory Chevrolets of Menu, Huff and Yvan Muller were outside the top-ten spots needed to make it into Q2. But the final flying laps from each proved good enough to sneak into the next session, although Huff only just managed to scrape through.

Huff has front-row starts for both races tomorrow His tenth-quickest time means he will start on pole for Race 2, alongside Gabriele Tarquini (SUNRED), while Fredy Barth (SUNRED) and Muller make up the second row of the grid.

As the track dried further ahead of the deciding Q2 session, all three Chevrolets pulled out all stops to wrest top spot once again, with all three drivers clocking times in the 1m05s range.

But a rapid lap from Colin Turkington (Wiechers BMW) saw the Northern Irishman claim provisional pole, forcing the Chevrolets out once again.

Muller failed to improve his effort when he slid off the circuit at Turn 7, while Huff and Menu were able to better their first efforts to secure an all-blue front row.

Turkington lines up on the second row as the quickest Independent Trophy driver, ahead of fellow class runner Norbert Michelisz (Zengõ-Dension BMW), while Tarquini is fifth, ahead of ROAL BMW driver Tom Coronel.

 

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2011 FIA WTCC Race of China Q1 & Q2 Session Times (Race 1 Grid):

Driver Team Time
1. Alain Menu SUI RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:05.555 (Q2)
2. Robert Huff GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:05.700 (Q2)
3. Colin Turkington GBR Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC BMW 1:05.712 (Q2)
4. Norbert Michelisz HUN Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC BMW 1:05.738 (Q2)
5. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:05.743 (Q2)
6. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 1:05.803 (Q2)
7. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:05.920 (Q2)
8. Tiago Monteiro POR SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:05.922 (Q2)
9. Pepe Oriola ESP SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:06.591 (Q2)
10. Fredy Barth* SUI Swiss SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:06.741 (Q2)
11. Kristian Poulsen DEN Team Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 1:07.555 (Q1)
12. Javier Villa García ESP Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW 1:07.710 (Q1)
13. Robert Dahlgren SWE Polestar Volvo C30 ‘Drive’ Volvo 1:07.770 (Q1)
14. Aleksei Dudukalo RUS Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:07.771 (Q1)
15. Mehdi Bennani MOR Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW 1:07.836 (Q1)
16. Franz Engstler DEU Team Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 1:08.004 (Q1)
17. Michel Nykjær DEN SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:08.069 (Q1)
18. Darryl O’Young HKG Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:08.317 (Q1)
19. Yukinori Taniguchi JPN Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:09.274 (Q1)
  OUTSIDE 107%       1:11.358  
20. Fabio Fabiani ITA Team Engstler BMW 320si BMW 1:12.641 (Q1)
21. Philip Ma HKG Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si BMW 1:14.194 (Q1)
22. Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG DeTeam KK BMW 320TC BMW 1:14.947 (Q1)

Top-10 starting order determined via a separate top-ten single-lap qualifying session. * Denotes 5-place grid penalty for engine change.

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2011 FIA WTCC Race of China Q1 Session Times (Race 2 Grid):

Driver Team Time
1. Robert Huff GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:07.331
2. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:07.287
3. Fredy Barth SUI Swiss SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:07.180
4. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:07.168
5. Tiago Monteiro POR SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:07.018
6. Pepe Oriola ESP SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:07.006
7. Colin Turkington GBR Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC BMW 1:06.919
8. Alain Menu SUI RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:06.854
9. Norbert Michelisz HUN Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC BMW 1:06.795
10. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 1:06.690
11. Kristian Poulsen DEN Team Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 1:07.555
12. Javier Villa García ESP Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW 1:07.710
13. Robert Dahlgren SWE Polestar Volvo C30 ‘Drive’ Volvo 1:07.770
14. Aleksei Dudukalo RUS Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:07.771
15. Mehdi Bennani MOR Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW 1:07.836
16. Franz Engstler DEU Team Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 1:08.004
17. Michel Nykjær DEN SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:08.069
18. Darryl O’Young HKG Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:08.317
19. Yukinori Taniguchi JPN Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:09.274
  OUTSIDE 107%       1:11.358
20. Fabio Fabiani ITA Team Engstler BMW 320si BMW 1:12.641
21. Philip Ma HKG Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si BMW 1:14.194
22. Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG DeTeam KK BMW 320TC BMW 1:14.947

Top-10 starting order determined reversing the order of the ten fastest drivers in Q1.

[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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