The RML team may have lost Chevrolet’s works support during the off-season, but that hasn’t stopped Yvan Muller and new teammate Tom Chilton from claiming a front-row lockout for the opening race of the FIA World Touring Car Championship season.
Having set the pace in Saturday’s earlier practice sessions at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, the Frenchman dominated the 24-car field, winning pole by almost a second from teammate Chilton.
After a lengthy gap between race outings, perhaps the field was feeling a little rusty, with today’s session proving to be one of the most chaotic and ill-disciplined in recent memory.
Reigning WTCC title-holder Rob Huff was the first to come to grief after he and series returnee Fredy Barth made contact on their out-lap in the opening phase of qualifying. The Englishman’s SEAT was too badly damaged to continue and he was out on the spot, leaving him to start from last place for both races.
The accident triggered a red flag, and once the session got underway, Muller went straight to the top of the Q1 timesheets and was never headed.
But the drama wouldn’t be over year, when the LADA’s staged a spectacular own-goal after Aleksei Dudukalo punted teammate James Thompson at Turn 1. The Russian appeared to completely miss his braking point, and instead cannoned straight into the side of the Englishman as he turned into the corner.
Incredibly, Thompson recovered to the pit lane and went quick enough in Q1 to make it into the shootout for pole position. He qualified ninth-fastest overall, which gives him a front-row start on the partially reverse-grid Race 2. Dudukalo was out on the spot and earned himself a five-place grid penalty for Race 1, meaning he will start from 21st place for Sunday’s opening 10-lap race.
Gabriele Tarquini was also in the wars after tipping René Münnich into a spin in the closing stages of Q1. While the Italian was the only Honda runner to make it into Q2, he was also hit with a five-place grid drop for the first race.
Fellow Honda runners Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz were hampered by traffic on their flying laps.
2013 FIA WTCC Race of Italy Q1 & Q2 Session Times:
|1.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:56.486|
|2.||Tom Chilton||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:57.345|
|3.||Alex MacDowall||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:57.685||Y|
|4.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||1:57.833||Y|
|5.||Gabriele Tarquini*||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||1:57.946|
|6.||James Nash||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:58.005||Y|
|7.||Michel Nykjær||NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:58.172||Y|
|8.||Marc Basseng||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||1:58.518|
|9.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Granta||1:58.669|
|10.||Darryl O’Young||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||1:58.781||Y|
|11.||Fernando Monje||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||1:58.814||Y|
|12.||Stefano D’Aste||PB Sport BMW 320TC||2:00.475||Y|
|12.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||2:33.107||Y|
|Q2 CUT-OFF: 1:59.044||Q1 Time|
|13.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||1:59.046||Y|
|14.||Tom Boardman||Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC||1:59.116||Y|
|15.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||1:59.155|
|16.||Aleksei Dudukalo*||LADA Sport Granta||1:59.303|
|17.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||1:59.386|
|18.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||1:59.685||Y|
|19.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||1:59.978||Y|
|20.||Fredy Barth||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||2:00.090||Y|
|21.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||2:00.799|
|22.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||2:00.901||Y|
|23.||Jean-Philippe Dayraut||ANOME BMW 320TC||2:00.957||Y|
|24.||Robert Huff||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||no time|
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).
* Denotes five-place grid penalty to Race 1 starting position for causing an avoidable collision in qualifying.