Gabriele Tarquini has claimed his second pole position of the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship season. The Italian broke the Portimão circuit’s lap record in his SEAT en route to claiming the prime starting position for Sunday’s first of two races.
Emphasising how closely fought a qualifying session it was, the grid sees three different manufacturers in the top three positions: defending champion Yvan Muller qualified second-fastest in his Chevrolet, while Norbert Michelisz was third quickest in his Zengõ Motorsport BMW. In what was an excellent session for the Hungarian team, Michelisz’s team-mate Gábor Wéber also made the second phase of qualifying and delivered a career-best seventh-fastest in qualifying.
The opening phase of qualifying was interrupted by a heavy accident for Tom Chilton, who crashed his Ford Focus after suffering a suspension failure. The timing of the accident ruined the flying laps for several runners, and Tiago Monteiro was later hit with a huge fine from the FIA Stewards for overtaking another driver during the red flag period as he ventured back to the pits.
The interruption created problems for two runners in particular, all of whom failed to make the cut-off to join the next session of qualifying. With team-mate Chilton out of the action, James Nash was perhaps a little more circumspect in the final minutes and unable to improve on his lap time, meaning that both Fords will start from the back of the grid, pending any grid penalties for other drivers.
Making his second appearance in the LADA Granta, James Thompson initially ran inside the top-twelve positions, but he was shuffled down the order in the closing minutes and will start from 17th place after being struck by a power steering failure. That being said, had he have made the Q2 cut, he wouldn’t have been allowed to participate, with series officials deeming the partially homologated Granta ineligible for championship points.
The final outcome at the end of Q1 saw most of the works-supported teams make it through to Q2, including all of the runners representing RML Chevrolet, ROAL Motorsport BMW, Lukoil Racing SEAT, and Tuenti Racing SEAT. The only truly ‘independent’ outfits to be represented in Q2 were the BMWs represented by Zengõ Motorsport and Proteam Racing.
The ten-minute Q2 session meant that the twelve eligible drivers would only have one – or at best two – flying laps in a single run to set their qualifying effort. Tarquini pulled out all stops to break the lap record he had set just a few hours ago in practice to claim a well-earned pole, three-tenths of a second clear of Muller.
Michelisz and Robert Huff (Chevrolet) will start from Row 2, while the third row of the grid is an all ROAL BMW affair, with Alberto Cerqui out-qualifying team-mate Tom Coronel by five-hundredths of a second.
He will start alongside Chevrolet driver Alain Menu, who is racing this weekend under the colours of fictional comic book racer Michel Vaillante.
Highlights of Saturday’s qualifying action can be viewed below, with the footage being supplied courtesy of Tom Coronel:
2012 FIA WTCC Race of Portugal Q1 & Q2 Session Times:
The starting order for Race 1 is determined by the qualifying results indicated above, unless states otherwise. The ten-fastest drivers – as indicated by their Q2 fastest times – start in reverse starting order for Race 2, unless stated otherwise. (‘Y’ denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy entered driver).