Yvan Muller has kicked off his final weekend in RML colours in the best possible fashion, claiming a dominant pole position for Sunday’s opening World Touring Car Championship race at Macau.
The Frenchman broke the lap record in a heavily-disrupted session, ultimately finishing quicker the Castrol Honda pairing of Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini by more than a second around the 6.1-kilometre street circuit.
The lead-up to qualifying wasn’t completely without drama for the RML team. While Muller had managed to remain error-free in the preceding practice sessions, the same could not be said for his teammate Tom Chilton, who badly mangled his car in FP2 after a heavy accident at the Fisherman’s Bend.
The first half-hour Q1 session was interrupted by no less than three red flags. The Campos Racing pairing of Hugo Valente and Michael Soong triggered the first two with separate crashes in their SEAT Leóns. Valente binned his car at Paiol, while Soong’s was a bit more dramatic: his car caught fire after crashing at Fisherman’s Bend.
The third red flag came courtesy of Fredy Barth, who also crashed his Weichers-Sport BMW at Paiol.
That left the remaining runners with just five minutes in Q1 in which to improve on their earlier lap times. Chilton managed to get his hastily-repaired Chevrolet inside the top-twelve cut-off, while late improvements for Gabriele Tarquini, Rob Huff and Norbert Michelisz proved enough to knock the unfortunate Pepe Oriola into an early bath.
Outside of Oriola’s misfortune, the final make-up of Q2 didn’t produce too many surprises. James Thompson did well to get his LADA into the second stage, while Tom Coronel was the sole BMW runner to make it through.
Henry Ho finished as the fastest of the EuroSport Asia Trophy contenders, with the Macanese driver getting his very outdated and underpowered BMW 320si 24th-fastest overall, only seven seconds of Muller’s provisional pole time.
The second stage of qualifying proved to be just as straightforward for Muller. The Frenchman’s first of two timed runs proved good enough to move him to the top of the timesheets, less than 0.3 seconds clear of Monteiro’s Honda Civic.
But not to be outdone, he had a crack at another run, smashing the lap record with a time eight-tenths of a second faster!
Monteiro wasn’t able to better Muller’s first timed run, and so the four-time World Champion finished a second clear of the Portuguese driver, while former champions Gabriele Tarquini and Rob Huff locked out the second row of the grid.
Alex MacDowall was the fastest Independent Trophy qualifier; he lines up two sports ahead of teammate and trophy rival James Nash – the latter needs at least an eighth-placed finish in either of Sunday’s races to wrap up the crown.
Coronel took his ROAL BMW tenth-quickest in Q2, which gives him pole position for Sunday’s second race when the ten fastest qualifiers’ grid positions are reversed. Thompson starts alongside, and could be a dark horse for victory given his LADA’s impressive straightline speed.
2013 FIA WTCC Guia Race of Macau Q1 & Q2 Session Times:
|1.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||2:28.933|
|2.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 1.000|
|3.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 1.058|
|4.||Robert Huff||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 1.174|
|5.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 1.291|
|6.||Alex MacDowall||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.315||Y|
|7.||Tom Chilton||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.650|
|8.||James Nash||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.790||Y|
|9.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Granta||+ 2.256|
|10.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 2.354|
|11.||Marc Basseng||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 2.549|
|12.||Tom Boardman||Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 6.056||Y|
|Q2 CUT-OFF: 2:31.755||Q1 Gap|
|13.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.658||Y|
|14.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 2.036||Y|
|15.||Stefano D’Aste||PB Sport BMW 320TC||+ 2.524||Y|
|16.||Fredy Barth||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 2.819||Y|
|17.||Darryl O’Young||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 2.962||Y|
|18.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 3.123||Y|
|19.||Konstantins Calko||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 3.705||Y|
|20.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Granta||+ 4.082|
|21.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 4.525||Y|
|22.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng*||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 4.633||Y|
|23.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 5.857||Y|
|24.||Henry Ho Wai Kun||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320si||+ 7.000||Y/A|
|25.||Filipe de Souza*||China Dragon Chevrolet Cruze LT||+ 7.778||Y/A|
|26.||Yukinori Tanuguchi||NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 8.326||Y/A|
|27.||Jerónimo Badaraco*||Son Veng Racing Chevrolet Cruze LT||+ 8.724||Y/A|
|28.||Michael Soong||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 9.755||Y|
|29.||Joseph Merszei||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320si||+ 10.409||Y/A|
|OUTSIDE 107%||Q1 Gap|
|DNQ.||Eurico de Jesus||PAS Macau Honda Accord Euro-R||+ 10.874||Y/A|
|DNQ.||Ng Kin Veng||China Dragon Chevrolet Cruze LT||+ 11.352||Y/A|
|DNQ.||Celio Alves Dias||China Dragon Chevrolet Lacetti||+ 12.379||Y/A|
|DNQ.||Mak Ka Lok||RPM Racing BMW 320si||+ 12.817||Y/A|
|DNQ.||Lam Kam San||China Dragon Chevrolet Lacetti||+ 16.689||Y/A|
’Q1 Gap’ denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 2:30.142 set by Yvan Muller
* Charles Ng incurs a ten-place grid penalty for Race 1 for posing an on-track hazard by driving a damaged vehicle back to the pits.
* Felipe de Souza, Jerónimo Badaraco will start from the rear of the grid for Race 1 for an unscheduled engine change.
‘Y’ denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy entered driver
’A’ denotes Eurosport Asia Trophy entered driver
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.