Yvan Muller will start from pole position for tomorrow’s opening World Touring Car Championship race at the Shanghai International Circuit, with the newly-crowned four-time champion edging out RML teammate Tom Chilton by less than four-tenths of a second.
It was a session dominated by the RML-built Chevrolets, with all six of the Cruzes built by the English team locking out the first three rows of the grid for tomorrow’s opening race.
With time for just a single flying lap run in the final phase of qualifying, Muller – who was quickest in Q1 – posted a time of 1:53.486 to guarantee pole position, in the process obliterating the qualifying lap record posted last year by Alain Menu.
Chilton took advantage of the slipstream offered by Muller along the back straight to secure an RML front-row lockout.
Spanish teenager Pepe Oriola secured third place on the grid in his Tuenti Racing Chevrolet, edging out both Independent Trophy title aspirants and teammates James Nash and Alex MacDowall. On his return to the WTCC, Rickard Rydell qualified the NIKA Racing Chevrolet sixth-fastest.
Norbert Michelisz was the best of the non-Chevrolet runners, qualifying seventh-fastest in his Zengõ Motorsport Honda, ahead of last year’s champion, Rob Huff, piloting the Münnich Motorsport SEAT.
The two works Honda Racing Team JAS cars of Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro rounded out the top ten, ensuring a front-row start for Sunday’s second race.
Thed Björk qualified an impressive seventh-fastest in his Polestar Volvo WTCC racer, but as his C30 racer only had national homologation, he was ineligible to take part in Q2 and was set to start from twelfth place for both races. However, the Swedish team made a rather serious blunder when a post-qualifying inspection found the car to be 4kg underweight, earning the Swede a five-place grid penalty for both races.
Qualifying didn’t produce many major surprises, although perhaps the lack of qualifying pace from the BMWs will turn out to be a talking point. Franz Engstler was the only 320TC runner to make it into Q2, doing so at the expense of Tom Coronel, who lines up on the sixth row of the grid for both races tomorrow.
Mehdi Bennani and Stefano D’Aste both qualified well down the order, with the latter breaking a driveshaft in Q1 and being unable to set a competitive time.
Yukinori Taniguchi was the fastest of the six EuroSport Asia Trophy entrants in his first outing behind the wheel of a SEAT, while Jerónimo Badaraco was the only driver not to post a time in qualifying after his Chevrolet broke down in the preceding practice session. The stewards gave him special dispensation to take the start for both of tomorrow’s races as he had posted practice times within 107% of the session’s fastest time.
The 31-car field will contest two 13-lap races tomorrow, with the first one kicking off at 3:20pm local time (GMT (+8).
2013 FIA WTCC Race of China Q1 & Q2 Session Times:
|1.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:53.486|
|2.||Tom Chilton||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.382|
|3.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.522||Y|
|4.||James Nash||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.548||Y|
|5.||Alex MacDowall||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.568||Y|
|6.||Rickard Rydell||NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.729|
|7.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 1.090|
|8.||Robert Huff||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 1.137|
|9.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 1.180|
|10.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 1.473|
|11.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 2.138||Y|
|12.||Thed Björk*||Volvo Polestar Racing C30 1.6T||no time||˚|
|Q2 CUT-OFF: 1:55.164||Q1 Gap|
|13.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 1.072|
|14.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Granta||+ 1.184|
|15.||Marc Basseng||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 1.302|
|16.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 1.403||Y|
|17.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1.449||Y|
|18.||Darryl O’Young||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 1.459||Y|
|19.||Tom Boardman||Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1.478||Y|
|20.||Fredy Barth||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 1.587||Y|
|21.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Granta||+ 1.788|
|22.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 2.039||Y|
|23.||Fernando Monje||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 2.150||Y|
|24.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 2.227||Y|
|25.||Yukinori Tanuguchi||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 2.996||Y/A|
|26.||Stefano D’Aste||PB Sport BMW 320TC||+ 4.316||Y|
|27.||Henry Ho Wai Kun||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320si||+ 4.733||Y/A|
|28.||Filipe de Souza||China Dragon Chevrolet Cruze LT||+ 5.098||Y/A|
|29.||Ng Kin Veng||China Dragon Chevrolet Cruze LT||+ 6.205||Y/A|
|30.||Mak Ka Lok||RPM Racing BMW 320si||+ 7.706||Y/A|
|OUTSIDE 107%||Q1 Gap|
|DNQ.||Jerónimo Badaraco||Son Veng Racing Chevrolet Cruze LT||no time||Y/A|
* Denotes five-place grid penalty to be applied for both races after failing post-qualifying scrutineering (car underweight).
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
˚ denotes ineligible to score championship points
’Q1 Gap’ denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:54.132 set by Yvan Muller