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:
|1.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||52.886|
|2.||Alex MacDowall||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.125||Y|
|3.||Tom Chilton||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.215|
|4.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.233|
|5.||James Nash||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.239||Y|
|6.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 0.479|
|7.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.479||Y|
|8.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 0.493|
|9.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 0.546|
|10.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 0.580||Y|
|11.||Robert Huff||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 0.649|
|12.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Granta||+ 0.762|
|Q2 CUT-OFF: 53.711||Q1 Time|
|13.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||53.733||Y|
|14.||Marc Basseng||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||53.812|
|15.||Takuya Izawa||JAS Honda Civic WTCC||53.827||A|
|16.||Fernando Monje||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||53.870||Y|
|17.||Hiroki Yoshimoto||NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||53.986||Y/A|
|18.||Stefano D’Aste||PB Sport BMW 320TC||53.991||Y|
|19.||Darryl O’Young||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||54.027||Y|
|20.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||54.158||Y|
|21.||Masaki Kano||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||54.263||Y/A|
|22.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Granta||54.292|
|23.||Tom Boardman||Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC||54.395||Y|
|24.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||54.471||Y/A|
|25.||Jerónimo Badaraco||Son Veng Racing Chevrolet Cruze LT||55.257||Y/A|
|26.||Henry Ho Wai Kun||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320si||55.611||Y/A|
|27.||Filipe de Souza||China Dragon Chevrolet Cruze LT||55.672||Y/A|
|28.||Ng Kin Veng||China Dragon Chevrolet Cruze LT||56.103||Y/A|
|29.||Mak Ka Lok||RPM Racing BMW 320si||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
Latest posts by Richard Bailey (see all)
- Supercars: Series to celebrate 1000th race in Melbourne - 22 January, 2019
- EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Fabrizio Barbazza - 3 January, 2019
- Supercars: Holdsworth confirmed at Tickford - 21 December, 2018
- Supercars: Stanaway, Tickford split - 10 December, 2018
- ‘The Unknown Kimi Räikkönen’ - 8 December, 2018