Qualifying for the season final round of the World Touring Car Championship event at Macau was thrown into complete chaos, with organisers forced to delay the top-ten qualifying shoot-out until tomorrow morning as no less than four red flags interrupted the first 30-minute phase of knockout qualifying.
With the afternoon’s practice session already delayed on account of repairs to several barriers around the Guia street circuit, the 27-car WTCC field seemingly decided to start its own destruction derby around the 6-kilometre long circuit.
Tom Coronel starting proceedings just five minutes into the session when he hit the barriers, and comprehensively destroyed the left-hand-side of his SEAT and scattering debris across the width of the track, forcing the stewards to unfurl the red flags.
The session got going again, only for Andy Priaulx and Masaki Kano to have separate accidents in their BMWs at the ‘R’ Bend. Priaux was able to limp back to the pits on three wheels to seek repairs to his damaged car and was later able to join the session again.
Independent Trophy championship contenders Kristian Poulsen and Sergio Hernández decided to add to the repair bill and bring out the red flags for the third time in the session, with Poulsen clipping the barriers on the climb up the hill, and Hernández swiping the wall at Maternity Bend.
With seven minutes of the session left to run – and some two hours after the session had started! – it got going again in appallingly bad light, only for Coronel (whose mechanics had worked miracles to repair his car) to get out onto the track and grind to a halt with his SEAT in a dangerous position on the circuit.
Organisers had no choice but to call an end to proceedings before someone ran the risk of injuring themselves, and have decided that the top-ten shoot-out will occur on Saturday morning, a day typically devoted to the first of the marquee Formula 3 championship heat races.
But despite all of the accidents, some drivers did actually manage to keep their cars out of the Armco long enough to post remotely competitive lap times.
And Chevrolet continued its monopoly of the 2010 event, but this time it was Yvan Muller who managed to upstage the hitherto dominant Robert Huff at the RML team took a 1-2 in the opening phase of the session.
Tiago Monteiro moved up to third quickest, depriving Alain Menu of giving Chevrolet a 1-2-3 in qualifying. Hungarian rookie Norbert Michelisz was fifth-fastest, with Macau expert Darryl O’Young finishing up a hugely impressive sixth-fastest in his venerable Chevrolet Lacetti.
Priaulx, despite his accident, wound up eighth-fastest, finishing one spot ahead of RBM team-mate Augusto Farfus.
Macau resident and the colony’s regular guest driver André Couto made it through to the top-ten shoot-out.
Four drivers – Joseph Merszei, Masaki Kano, Andrei Romanov and Philip Ma – will be spending time with the stewards this evening, pleading their case to be granted dispensation to start Sunday’s two races after they failed to post a timed lap within 107% of Muller’s quickest lap time around the Guia street circuit.
2010 WTCC Macau Qualifying 1 (Provisional Classification):
[Original images via FIA WTCC official site]