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