Norbert Michelisz has won his first ever World Touring Car Championship pole position with a shock qualifying performance at the series’ first ever visit to the Slovakia Ring. It being an unusual qualifying session, Aleksei Dudukalo will start alongside him on the front row with his career-best qualifying result.
Saturday’s two practice sessions had been a major learning exercise for all runners, who had just one hour of track time before qualifying began on a hot Saturday afternoon at the technical circuit.
With a number of his Hungarian fans having made the short trip over the border, Michelisz proceeded to delight them with a stellar qualifying effort in his Zengõ Motorsport BMW, gaining a useful slipstream from Yvan Muller on his final flying lap to go quickest.
With Dudukalo in second, his Lukoil Racing team-mate Gabriele Tarquini might find himself regretting the helping hand he gave his Russian team-mate by showing him the racing line, having been out-qualified. The former F1 driver will start from third place.
|Some famous SEAT teamwork saw four of its cars make the second phase of qualifying|
In another encouraging performance by the new Arena Motorsports Ford team, both James Nash and Tom Chilton (who had next to no practice running) made the top-twelve shootout for pole as the team’s Ford Forcus S2000 cars found improved pace with a revised suspension layout.
Nash’s fourth-placed effort turned sour when scrutineers deemed his car to be running at too-low a ride height, earning him a ten-place grid penalty. Nash’s loss is Chilton’s gain, with the youngster being promoted to a Race 2 pole position, by dint of the top-ten qualifiers having their grid positions reversed for Sunday’s second race.
Tiago Monteiro will now start from the second row of the opening race in his older-spec SUNRED León, an impressive performance given the clear power deficit he suffers to those around him. The Portuguese driver was helped by a slipstream given to him by team-mate Pepe Oriola, who qualified eighth-fastest.
Reigning champion and points leader Yvan Muller heads an all-Chevrolet third row alongside Robert Huff – third driver Alain Menu is two spots behind Huff – with the works team at a loss to explain their worst qualifying performance in almost two years.
|It was a tough qualifying session for all three works Chevrolet runners and Tom Coronel, who failed to make it into Q2|
Stefano D’Aste and Alberto Cerqui both scraped into the second phase of qualifying, courtesy of a red flag brought out in the closing seconds of the first qualifying session, at the precise point when several faster runners were on their last flying laps.
The timing of the red flag was disastrous for Tom Coronel in particular, with the Dutchman failing to make the Q2 cut for the first time this season. Adding to the ROAL Motorsport driver’s frustrations, he was also issued with a mechanical black flag in the session when his left-rear door flew open and was furious with event organisers for shuffling around the position of teams’ pit garages, which he felt gave him a distinct disadvantage:
2012 FIA WTCC Race of Slovakia Q1 & Q2 Session Times:
* James Nash received a 10-place grid penalty after his car was found not to conform to the minimum ride height requirements in post-qualifying scrutineering. Mehdi Bennani will also be demoted to the back of the grid for changing his engine.
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).
Sunday will see the field participate in two ten-lap races, with the first kicking off at 2:20pm local time (GMT+2).