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.
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.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of China Q1 & Q2 Session Times (Race 1 Grid):
|1.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:05.555||(Q2)|
|2.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:05.700||(Q2)|
|3.||Colin Turkington||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||1:05.712||(Q2)|
|4.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||1:05.738||(Q2)|
|5.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1:05.743||(Q2)|
|6.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||1:05.803||(Q2)|
|7.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:05.920||(Q2)|
|8.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1:05.922||(Q2)|
|9.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1:06.591||(Q2)|
|10.||Fredy Barth*||Swiss SR León 1.6T||1:06.741||(Q2)|
|11.||Kristian Poulsen||Team Engstler BMW 320TC||1:07.555||(Q1)|
|12.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||1:07.710||(Q1)|
|13.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30 ‘Drive’||1:07.770||(Q1)|
|14.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1:07.771||(Q1)|
|15.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||1:07.836||(Q1)|
|16.||Franz Engstler||Team Engstler BMW 320TC||1:08.004||(Q1)|
|17.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1:08.069||(Q1)|
|18.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:08.317||(Q1)|
|19.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:09.274||(Q1)|
|20.||Fabio Fabiani||Team Engstler BMW 320si||1:12.641||(Q1)|
|21.||Philip Ma||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||1:14.194||(Q1)|
|22.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||DeTeam KK BMW 320TC||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.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of China Q1 Session Times (Race 2 Grid):
|1.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:07.331|
|2.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1:07.287|
|3.||Fredy Barth||Swiss SR León 1.6T||1:07.180|
|4.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:07.168|
|5.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1:07.018|
|6.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1:07.006|
|7.||Colin Turkington||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||1:06.919|
|8.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:06.854|
|9.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||1:06.795|
|10.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||1:06.690|
|11.||Kristian Poulsen||Team Engstler BMW 320TC||1:07.555|
|12.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||1:07.710|
|13.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30 ‘Drive’||1:07.770|
|14.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1:07.771|
|15.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||1:07.836|
|16.||Franz Engstler||Team Engstler BMW 320TC||1:08.004|
|17.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1:08.069|
|18.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:08.317|
|19.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:09.274|
|20.||Fabio Fabiani||Team Engstler BMW 320si||1:12.641|
|21.||Philip Ma||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||1:14.194|
|22.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||DeTeam KK BMW 320TC||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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