Tiago Monteiro has claimed pole position on home soil in the FIA World Touring Car Championship round on the streets of Vila Real, emerging atop the timesheets in a thrilling one-lap shootout on Saturday where all four of his rivals made critical Q3 errors.
The result ended a six-year drought for pole for the Portuguese driver – who’s last pole also came on home soil in Portimão – with his time of 1:56.633 giving him top spot over Citroën’s Yvan Muller by just one one-tenth of a second.
It was an all-factory affair in Q3, with Monteiro joined by his Honda stablemates Rob Huff and Norbert Michelisz alongside the Citroëns of Yvan Muller and defending two-time champion José María López.
López only just scraped into Q3 after biffing the barriers in the second part of qualifying on his first flying lap. The Argentinean managed to make it back to the pits for hasty repairs, emerging back on track with just five minutes on the clock. He cut the chicane in the final sector of his first flying lap – with the time immediately being deleted – and was forced to attempt a second flying run.
His time was incredibly good enough for third-fastest, proving enough to demote Polestar Cyan Racing’s series returnee Robert Dahlgren out of tenth place and the coveted pole position for the reversed grid opening race. That honour instead went to ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel.
Monteiro was just fifth-fastest and therefore first out in the Q3 shootout; he contained any nerves in front of his home crowd to post a highly competitive time of 1:56.633.
It would prove too tough to beat for the remaining Q3 quartet. Michelisz hit the barriers at Turn 9 to rule himself out of contention, but completed his lap to post a time 1.7 seconds off Monteiro’s effort.
López was next out and he looked on course to better Monteiro’s effort until he made another mistake. This time he lost it at the roundabout and slid up the escape road, aborting his lap in the process.
His teammate Muller was next up, and also looked like he would beat Monteiro until a lock-up in the final sector – he missed out by just one-tenth of a second.
That left Rob Huff – the fastest driver in Q2 with a 1:56.403 – as the only man who could deny Monteiro pole on home soil, but he too made an error, this time at Turn 4, and lapped over two seconds off the pace to secure fourth place for Sunday’s Main Race grid.
Polestar Cyan Racing’s Thed Björk qualified a creditable sixth-fastest in his and Volvo’s first time on the high-speed street circuit, while Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani was the best Independent Trophy driver with seventh. Rounding out the top ten was the Moroccan’s teammate Tom Chilton, who was followed by Nick Catsburg’s LADA and Coronel’s RML Chevrolet.
The additional compensation ballast being carried by the LADAs proved too much of a handicap for the usually competitive Vesta WTCC cars, which had dominated their home race meeting just a fortnight before. Hugo Valente defied his usual qualifying prowess with a lowly thirteenth-fastest time, while series veteran Gabriele Tarquini found his car set-up all at sea after hasty repairs to his car and was the slowest lapped runner.
He only edged out series rookie Dániel Nagy, who was miles off the pace with a best time of 2:08.851 on his first ever World Touring Car Championship outing in Zengõ Motorsport’s freshly prepared second Honda Civic.
Sunday’s opening race, run over 13 laps, will start tomorrow at 15:05 local time (GMT +0), while the 14-lap main race is scheduled for a 16:15 start.
|2016 FIA World Touring Car Championship Race of Portugal – Qualifying Results|
|1.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||1:56.633|
|2.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée||1:56.742|
|3.||Norbert Michelisz||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||1:58.373|
|4.||Rob Huff||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||1:59.031|
|5.||José María López||Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée||no time|
|6.||Thed Björk||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||1:57.641|
|7.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||1:57.734||IND|
|8.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||1:58.148||IND|
|9.||Nick Catsburg||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||1:58.384|
|10.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:58.389||IND|
|11.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||1:58.577|
|12.||James Thompson||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:58.635||IND|
|13.||Hugo Valente||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||1:58.540|
|14.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:59.487||IND|
|15.||Ferenc Ficza||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||1:59.936||IND|
|16.||Grégoire Demoustier||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||2:00.157||IND|
|17.||Gabriele Tarquini||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||2:00.569|
|EX.||Dániel Nagy*||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||no time||IND|
* Post Qualifying Penalties:
- Dániel Nagy – who failed to qualify inside the 107% cut-off – subsequently had his qualifying times deleted for missing the weighbridge. He will start from the back of the grid for both races.
Image via FIA WTCC Media