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.
Showing 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.
Despite 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:
|1.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil Racing SEAT León 1.6T||1:57.915|
|2.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:57.974|
|3.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:58.106|
|4.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:58.200|
|5.||Rickard Rydell||Chevrolet Sweden Cruze 1.6T||1:58.319|
|6.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||1:58.389|
|7.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León 1.6T||1:58.412||Y|
|8.||Alex MacDowell||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:58.507||Y|
|9.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil Racing SEAT León 1.6T||1:58.649||Y|
|10.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport BMW 320TC||1:58.652||Y|
|11.||Stefano D’Aste||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||1:58.931||Y|
|12.||Gábor Wéber||Zengõ Motorsport BMW 320TC||1:59.348||Y|
|Q2 CUT-OFF: 1:59.350||Q1 Time|
|13.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||1:59.435||Y|
|14.||James Nash||Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC||1:59.563||Y|
|15.||Tom Chilton||Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC||1:59.723|
|16.||Tiago Monteiro||Tuenti Racing SEAT León TDi||1:59.743|
|17.||Alberto Cerqui||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||1:59.841||Y|
|18.||Pasquale di Sabatino||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:59.891||Y|
|19.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||1:59.949||Y|
|20.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing BMW 320TC||2:00.300||Y|
|21.||Andrea Barlesi||SUNRED Engineering SEAT León TDi||2:00.394||Y|
|22.||Isaac Tutumlu||Proteam Racing BMW 320TC||2:01.333||Y|
|107% CUT-OFF: 2:06.264||Q1 Time|
|NQ.||Darryl O’Young||Special Tune Racing SEAT León 1.6T||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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