Tarquini celebrates pole position

Gabriele Tarquini has taken a shock pole position in qualifying for Sunday’s World Touring Car Championship opening race at Monza, beating the works Chevrolet drivers in a tactical qualifying session. It also marked the first time that Chevrolet hasn’t claimed pole position in over a year.

Tarquini’s pole position was a fantastic result for his Lukoil Racing Team and SEAT, which is debuting a brand-new turbo engine with minimal testing and spare parts. In fact, such is the shortness of supply in the new powerplants that drivers Tiago Monteiro and Andrea Barlesi were forced to run the older-spec turbodiesel units that were last used early last year.

Tarquini used all of his experience to claim a well-earned poleShowing all the experience that belied his fifty years of age, Tarquini was the quickest driver in the first qualifying session, helping himself to an enormous tow from the three RML Chevrolet who ran immediately ahead of him on the track. In the second qualifying session, Tarquini dropped in behind Tom Coronel’s BMW, using the Dutchman’s slipstream to great effect to claim pole position from Yvan Muller by just 0.059 seconds.

Tomorrow’s opening race will prove interesting, however, at the Italian will line up ahead of four Chevrolets: Muller will start ahead of Robert Huff, Alain Menu and WTCC guest returnee Rickard Rydell.

Coronel finished the session as the best-placed BMW in sixth place, one spot ahead of Pepe Oriola, with the 17-year-old achieving a career-best qualifying performance in seventh, finishing at the best-placed Independent Trophy driver.

The Spaniard shares the fourth row of the grid with WTCC rookie Alex MacDowell (Bemboo Engineering), who ensured that five of the field’s six Chevrolet Cruzes made the Q2 qualifying cut.

The top-ten was completed by Tarquini’s team-mate, Aleksei Dudukalo, and Zengo Motorsport BMW driver Norbert Michelisz – the pair will start from the front row of Sunday’s second race under the new qualifying rules, which see the ten fastest drivers’ have their starting positions reversed.

Stefano D’Aste also made the Q2 cut and will start from eleventh for both races, while Michelisz’s rookie team-mate Gábor Wéber earned plenty of praise with his qualifying performance on debut, bumping Franz Engstler out of a spot in Q2 by just eight-hundredths of a second.

The new Fords didn't make the Q2 qualifying cutDespite showing promising pace in free practice, the new Arena Motorsport Fords couldn’t quite get it together in qualifying; James Nash pipped team-mate Tom Chilton to fourteenth spot by 0.160 seconds.

Being laden with the breathless SEAT turbodiesel was always going to be a considerable disadvantage on a power circuit like Monza, and Tiago Monteiro found that out to his peril when he could manage no better than sixteenth.

Darryl O’Young was another driver to endure a torrid qualifying session, with the Hong Kong racer being forced to park his Special Tune Racing SEAT when its engine blew. Subject to there being enough spare engines available, he may be able to make both races.


2012 FIA WTCC Race of Italy Q1 & Q2 Session Times:

Driver Team Q2 Time YIT
1. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Lukoil Racing SEAT León 1.6T SEAT 1:57.915  
2. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:57.974  
3. Robert Huff GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:58.106  
4. Alain Menu SUI RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:58.200  
5. Rickard Rydell SWE Chevrolet Sweden Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:58.319  
6. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 1:58.389  
7. Pepe Oriola ESP Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León 1.6T SEAT 1:58.412 Y
8. Alex MacDowell GBR Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:58.507 Y
9. Aleksei Dudukalo RUS Lukoil Racing SEAT León 1.6T SEAT 1:58.649 Y
10. Norbert Michelisz HUN Zengõ Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 1:58.652 Y
11. Stefano D’Aste ITA Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC BMW 1:58.931 Y
12. Gábor Wéber HUN Zengõ Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 1:59.348 Y
  Q2 CUT-OFF: 1:59.350 Q1 Time  
13. Franz Engstler DEU Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 1:59.435 Y
14. James Nash GBR Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC Ford 1:59.563 Y
15. Tom Chilton GBR Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC Ford 1:59.723  
16. Tiago Monteiro POR Tuenti Racing SEAT León TDi SEAT 1:59.743  
17. Alberto Cerqui ITA ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 1:59.841 Y
18. Pasquale di Sabatino ITA Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:59.891 Y
19. Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 1:59.949 Y
20. Mehdi Bennani MOR Proteam Racing BMW 320TC BMW 2:00.300 Y
21. Andrea Barlesi BEL SUNRED Engineering SEAT León TDi SEAT 2:00.394 Y
22. Isaac Tutumlu ESP Proteam Racing BMW 320TC BMW 2:01.333 Y
  107% CUT-OFF: 2:06.264 Q1 Time  
NQ. Darryl O’Young HKG Special Tune Racing SEAT León 1.6T SEAT no time Y

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).

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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.