Tom Chilton has finally broken through to claim the first pole position of his FIA World Touring Car Championship career, narrowly edging out RML Chevrolet teammate Yvan Muller for top spot in a thrilling close to qualifying for this weekend’s round at Sonoma Raceway.
Muller held top spot and looked set to continue an unbroken run of pole positions in the dying minutes, only to be bettered by Chilton on the Englishman’s final flying lap, with most of the damage coming courtesy of a blistering opening sector.
That the Englishman was even in the final phase of qualifying was a miracle in itself. During Q1, he had a wild moment through Turn 2 after skidding off the track, and was fortunate to avoid biffing the barriers.
Tiago Monteiro will be hoping that his run of bad luck will come to an end this weekend, and he has put himself in a good position to net himself a decent result with the third-fastest time in his Honda. Teenage racer Pepe Oriola was fourth-fastest in his new Chevrolet, just under three-hundredths of a second slower than Monteiro.
Underlining the Chevrolet dominance was the fact that all six Cruze runners made it into the top-twelve shootout for pole position. Bamboo Engineering teammates Alex MacDowall and James Nash were fifth and sixth-fastest in their Bamboo Engineering entries.
The final Chevrolet runner, Michel Nykjær – who is also Muller’s only realistic championship rival – qualified ninth-fastest, but will start from the back of the grid for both races after his NIKA Chevrolet failed post-qualifying scrutineering checks, which found that his race seat was incorrectly positioned.
The result is a bitter blow for the Dane, all but handing a fourth Drivers’ Championship title to Muller, who can wrap up championship honours with another solid points haul this weekend.
SEAT runners Hugo Valente and Fernando Monje also fell foul of the same technical rule.
Seventh-fastest qualifier Norbert Michelisz will also start from the back of the grid – although only for Race 1 – after he was forced to change the engine under the hood of his Honda earlier in the day. The Hungarian qualified seventh-fastest, ahead of defending champion Rob Huff.
Gabriele Tarquini will start from pole position for Race 2 with his tenth-fastest qualifying time in the third Honda Civic.
2013 FIA WTCC Race of USA Q1 & Q2 Session Times:
|1.||Tom Chilton||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:45.491|
|2.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.125|
|3.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 0.657|
|4.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.683||Y|
|5.||Alex MacDowall||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.828||Y|
|6.||James Nash||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.982||Y|
|7.||Norbert Michelisz^||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 1.065|
|8.||Robert Huff||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 1.076|
|9.||Michel Nykjær*||NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.085||Y|
|10.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 1.282|
|11.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 1.336||Y|
|12.||Marc Basseng||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 2.128|
|Q2 CUT-OFF: 1:46.957||Q1 Time|
|12.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||1:47.038|
|13.||Fredy Barth||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||1:47.078||Y|
|14.||Darryl O’Young||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||1:47.126||Y|
|15.||Hugo Valente*||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||1:47.145||Y|
|16.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||1:47.277||Y|
|17.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Granta||1:47.583|
|18.||Stefano D’Aste||PB Sport BMW 320TC||1:47.637||Y|
|19.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||1:47.892||Y|
|20.||Fernando Monje*||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||1:48.025||Y|
|21.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Granta||1:48.070|
|22.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||1:48.279||Y|
|23.||Tom Boardman||Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC||1:48.530||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).
^ Demoted to the back of the grid for Race 1 for an unscheduled engine change.
* Demoted to the back of the grid for Races 1 and 2 for incorrectly positioned seats.