On just his second World Touring Car Championship outing for the new Honda team, former series champion Gabriele Tarquini has claimed the carmaker’s first pole position with an outstanding qualifying performance on the tight streets of Marrakech.
The Italian beat James Nash to top spot by just three-hundredths of a second, with the Englishman claiming his – and Bamboo Engineering’s – best ever qualifying performance and in prime position to claim the team’s first ever outright win in Sunday’s opening eleven-lap race.
The Italian navigated a traffic-impacted final phase of qualifying to perfection to beat Nash, while the frontrunning RML Chevrolets of Yvan Muller and Tom Chilton could do no better that third and fifth respectively.
The pair came across the slower SEAT of Fernando Monje on their final flyers, just as the Spaniard was gearing up to start his own timed lap and bid for Race 2’s reverse-grid pole.
Monje simply had to go out onto the track after the twelve-car session was reduced to just ten, courtesy of separate session-ending accidents for James Thompson (LADA) and Tom Coronel (ROAL BMW).
Thompson had clipped the wall after a clocking a time good enough for Q2 and was unable to participate in the session, while Coronel scored a silly own-goal for the ROAL team when he hit the back of teammate Darryl O’Young in Q1, eliminating both from further proceedings.
Muller and Chilton were split by the other NIKA Chevrolet of Michel Nykjær, while the fifth and final Chevrolet of Alex MacDowall was sixth-quickest, ensuring the carmaker had all of its qualify on the first three rows of the grid.
Reigning champion Rob Huff was the quickest of the SEAT runners in seventh place, edging out impressive rookie teammate Marc Basseng to claim an all-Münnich Motorsport fourth row for the opening race.
Pepe Oriola was ninth-fastest in his Tuenti SEAT, while teammate and compatriot Monje managed to escape sanction from the stewards and keeps tenth place – and pole position for Race 2.
The tight Marrakech circuit claimed several runners in an action-packed half-hour Q1 session. Aside from Thompson, Coronel and O’Young, Tiago Monteiro also came to grief in his Honda, damaging his front left suspension after thumping into the barriers and bringing out a red flag. The Portuguese driver will start both races from fourteenth position on the grid.
Local hero Mehdi Bennani was another to come unstuck. The Moroccan overcooked it exiting Turn 4 and suffered a tank-slapper which fired him into the outside wall and a major repair bill for his Proteam BMW team. He will line up in eighteenth position.
2013 FIA WTCC Race of Morocco Q1 & Q2 Session Times:
|1.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||1:44.358|
|2.||James Nash||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:44.406||Y|
|3.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:44.504|
|4.||Michel Nykjær||NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:44.745||Y|
|5.||Tom Chilton||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:44.863|
|6.||Alex MacDowall||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:45.060||Y|
|7.||Robert Huff||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||1:45.228|
|8.||Marc Basseng||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||1:45.552|
|9.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||1:46.341||Y|
|10.||Fernando Monje||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||no time||Y|
|11.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Granta||no time|
|12.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||no time|
|Q2 CUT-OFF: 1:46.194||Q1 Time|
|13.||Darryl O’Young||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||1:46.327||Y|
|14.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||1:46.396|
|15.||Fredy Barth||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||1:46.412||Y|
|16.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||1:46.494||Y|
|17.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||1:46.629|
|18.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||1:46.660||Y|
|19.||Tom Boardman||Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC||1:46.713||Y|
|20.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||1:47.140||Y|
|21.||Stefano D’Aste||PB Sport BMW 320TC||1:47.390||Y|
|22.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Granta||1:47.598|
|23.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||1:49.754||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).