Zengő Motorsport driver Norbert Michelisz has claimed a brilliant pole position at Honda’s home race at the Twin Ring Motegi by outpacing championship leader José María López in the final one-lap shootout in qualifying.
The result marked the first time in almost a year that a non-Citroën driver has managed to claim outright pole. That he managed to outpace four of the five C-Elysées in the Q3 field underscored what an impressive feat this was.
The top-five shootout saw Michelisz joined by Mehdi Bennani and three of the works Citroëns of López, Ma Qing Hua and Sébastien Loeb. As the fifth-fastest Q2 qualifier, Bennani had the first run but found his time beaten by López.
The Argentine’s time proved too good for Ma and Loeb – who sandwiched Bennani on the timesheets – but that wasn’t the case for Michelisz, who overcame a slightly slower first sector of the lap with two brilliant final interval times to claim his first pole position since the Race of Japan at Suzuka in 2013.
The earlier phases of qualifying continued a much-predicted battle between the Citroëns and the Hondas, which locked out the top eight positions on the grid for Sunday’s first race. Four-time champion Yvan Muller was perhaps the biggest disappointment in only managing seventh-fastest, sandwiched between the two works Hondas of Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro on his sole qualifying run in Q2.
Tom Chilton looked to have claimed the tenth-fastest time and pole for the reversed-grid second race, but subsequently had his qualifying time disallowed for exceeding the track limits. That awarded the position to fellow RML Chevrolet runner Hugo Valente, who will share the front row with Nicky Catsburg’s LADA.
Sunday’s two races at the Twin Ring Motegi will be run over 13 laps apiece at 14:15 and 15:25 (UTC +9).
|2015 FIA WTCC JVC Kenwood Race of Japan– Qualifying Results|
|1.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||1:55.596||IND|
|2.||José María López||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||1:55.676|
|3.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||1:55.804|
|4.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||1:55.835||IND|
|5.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||1:56.038|
|6.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||1:56.137|
|7.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||1:56.236|
|8.||Tiago Monteiro*||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||1:56.635|
|9.||Nick Catsburg*||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||1:57.456|
|10.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:57.548||IND|
|11.||Nicolas Lapierre||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||1:57.702|
|12.||Tom Chilton*||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||no time||IND|
|13.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||1:57.383|
|14.||Grégoire Demoustier||Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:57.434||IND|
|15.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:57.663||IND|
|16.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:58.104||IND|
|17.||Stefano D’Aste||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:58.260||IND|
- Tom Chilton – who originally qualified tenth-fastest in Q2 – had his fastest lap time from the session disallowed for exceeding track limits.
- Tiago Monteiro and Nick Catsburg will start Race 1 from the back of the grid following an unscheduled engine change.
Image via FIA WTCC Media
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