Norbert Michelisz has won pole position for the opening WTCC race at Suzuka

Norbert Michelisz has won his first pole position of the 2013 World Touring Car Championship season to give Honda a front-row start on home soil at this weekend’s round at the Suzuka East circuit.

The Hungarian moved into top spot during a tense final qualifying session by posting the weekend’s first sub-53-second lap time around the short 2.4-kilometre circuit on his one and only flying lap in Q2.

And when all of his chief rivals for top qualifying honours threw away their chances with mistakes or a marginal lack of pace, the Zengõ Motorsport driver was assured of pole position for Sunday’s opening 26-lap race.

Champion-elect Yvan Muller threw away his shot at pole position with a lurid slide as he hit Turn 1, while Gabriele Tarquini came undone with a trip through the Turn 3 gravel. Tarquini’s teammate Tiago Monteiro lost time in the middle sector.

That meant that Alex MacDowall and Tom Chilton were Michelisz’s closest challengers, with the former giving himself a front-row start in his Bamboo Chevrolet, ahead of RML teammates Tom Chilton and Muller.

MacDowall’s teammate James Nash and Tuenti Racing’s Pepe Oriola ensured five Chevrolets qualified in the top-seven, with the pair sandwiching Monteiro’s Honda on the timesheets.

Gabriele Tarquini – who is Yvan Muller’s sole championship rival – was eighth-fastest, and no doubt hoping that he will be on contention for a win in Race 2 when it translates into a second-row grid slot.

But the Italian will need to get ahead of the traditionally fast-starting BMWs of Tom Coronel and Mehdi Bennani, who were ninth- and tenth-fastest, which gives them the front row of the grid for Sunday’s second race. Coronel has a mighty record in Japan, and will be looking to claim his third win in his ‘adopted homeland’.

Fellow Brits Rob Huff and James Thompson made the top-twelve qualifying session as the sole SEAT and LADA runners in Q2, but neither was able to crack the top-ten, which gives them a sixth-row starting position for both races.

2013 FIA WTCC Race of Japan Q1 & Q2 Session Times:

Driver Team Q2 Time YIT
1. Norbert Michelisz HUN Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC Honda 52.886
2. Alex MacDowall GBR Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 0.125 Y
3. Tom Chilton GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 0.215  
4. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 0.233  
5. James Nash GBR Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 0.239 Y
6. Tiago Monteiro POR Castrol Honda Civic WTCC Honda + 0.479
7. Pepe Oriola ESP Tuenti Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 0.479 Y
8. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Castrol Honda Civic WTCC Honda + 0.493  
9. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 0.546
10. Mehdi Bennani MOR Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW + 0.580 Y
11. Robert Huff GBR Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 0.649  
12. James Thompson GBR LADA Sport Granta LADA + 0.762  
  Q2 CUT-OFF: 53.711 Q1 Time  
13. Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 53.733 Y
14. Marc Basseng DEU Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC SEAT 53.812  
15. Takuya Izawa JPN JAS Honda Civic WTCC Honda 53.827 A
16. Fernando Monje ESP Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC SEAT 53.870 Y
17. Hiroki Yoshimoto JPN NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 53.986 Y/A
18. Stefano D’Aste ITA PB Sport BMW 320TC BMW 53.991 Y
19. Darryl O’Young HKG ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 54.027 Y
20. René Münnich DEU Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC SEAT 54.158 Y
21. Masaki Kano JPN Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 54.263 Y/A
22. Mikhail Kozlovskiy RUS LADA Sport Granta LADA 54.292
23. Tom Boardman GBR Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT 54.395 Y
24. Yukinori Taniguchi JPN Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC BMW 54.471 Y/A
25. Jerónimo Badaraco MCU Son Veng Racing Chevrolet Cruze LT Chevrolet 55.257 Y/A
26. Henry Ho Wai Kun MCU Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320si BMW 55.611 Y/A
27. Filipe de Souza MCU China Dragon Chevrolet Cruze LT Chevrolet 55.672 Y/A
28. Ng Kin Veng MCU China Dragon Chevrolet Cruze LT Chevrolet 56.103 Y/A
29. Mak Ka Lok MCU RPM Racing BMW 320si BMW 56.478 Y/A

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
’A’ denotes Eurosport Asia Trophy entered driver

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.