Nicky Catsburg won a dramatic battle for pole position at FIA WTCC Race of Argentina, taking to the grass in a dramatic final-turn power slide as he crossed the timing beam to complete his lap.

The Polestar Cyan Racing driver was the last of five drivers to hunt down pole in the Qualifying Q3 one-lap shootout and threw everything at the lap to secure a controversial pole position. The lap was good enough to beat Honda’s Norbert Michelisz by 0.184 seconds in an exciting end to qualifying at the 4.806-kilometre Circuito Termas de Río Hondo.

It was the second pole position of the Dutchman’s WTCC career and makes him the fifth different racer to qualify at the front in 2017, such is the wide-open nature of this year’s World Touring Car Championship.

Catsburg’s pole remained provisional until a post-qualifying investigation was conducted by the FIA Stewards, who ruled that the Q3 lap time would stand despite suggestions he had gained a material advantage by running wide through the last corner.

Michelisz’s teammate Tiago Monteiro took three bonus points for going third-quickest, extending his title advantage to six points over Catsburg’s teammate Thed Björk, who was fifth fastest. Argentine driver and leading WTCC Trophy contender Esteban Guerrieri was an impressive fourth-fastest in his Campos Racing Chevrolet.

Girolami’s compatriot Néstor Girolami qualified sixth-fastest, ahead of Sébastien Loeb Racing duo Mehdi Bennani and Tom Chilton, who were the fastest Citröens as the French cars struggled over one lap running the maximum compensation ballast.

Ryo Michigami, Yann Ehrlacher, John Filippi and Tom Coronel all made it through to Q2, but the session ended at the Q1 phase for Rob Huff, Dániel Nagy, series newcomer Zsolt Dávid Szabó and Kevin Gleason.

Huff’s early elimination was the biggest shock, with the former World Champion blaming a heavy lock-up ahead of his final run for his lowly qualifying position.

Ehrlacher will start Sunday’s Opening Race from the reverse-grid pole by qualifying tenth-fastest, marking the first time that the young Frenchman and nephew of four-time World Champion Yvan Muller has done so in his WTCC career.

Sunday’s two races – the 11-lap Opening Race and longer 13-lap Main Race – will take place at 15:00 and 16:15 respectively (GMT -3).

2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship Race of Argentina – Final Qualifying Results
Q3 Qualifiers Team Time Class
1. Nick Catsburg Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1 volvo 1:43.088
2. Norbert Michelisz Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC 1:43.272
3. Tiago Monteiro Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC 1:43.479
4. Esteban Guerrieri Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze 1:43.704 IND
5. Thed Björk Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1 volvo 1:43.715
Q2 Qualifiers Team Time Class
6. Néstor Girolami Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1 volvo 1:43.690
7. Mehdi Bennani Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée 1:44.062 IND
8. Tom Chilton Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée 1:44.299 IND
9. Ryo Michigami* Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC 1:44.400
10. Yann Ehrlacher RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC 1:44.803 IND
11. John Filippi Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée 1:44.870 IND
12. Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze 1:45.437 IND
Q1 Qualifiers Team Time Class
13. Rob Huff Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée 1:45.178 IND
14. Dániel Nagy Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC 1:45.919 IND
15. Zsolt Dávid Szabó Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC 1:46.079 IND
16. Kevin Gleason RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC 1:46.432 IND

* Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • Ryo Michigami – who provisionally qualified ninth-fastest – will serve a 10-place grid penalty for the Opening Race due to an unscheduled engine change

Image via FIA WTCC Media

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Geoff Burke

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