Rob Huff will aim to turn around a horror 2017 chapter of his World Touring Car Championship career after qualifying on pole position for the Main Race at Macau.
The British driver posted the fastest ever lap in a touring car around the daunting Guia circuit to claim his sixth pole position at the venue. He will be aiming to secure a record ninth Guia Race victory in Sunday’s race.
Huff needed to keep all his wits about him in Friday’s three-part qualifying format, which many of his fellow runners sought to disrupt with a succession of crashes.
The first 30-minute phase of qualifying was stopped no less than four times as drivers struggled to thread their way between the barriers.
Series returnee Ma Qing Hua was the most notable victim, binning his Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën at Maternity Bend. He was also joined by Po Wah Wong, who slid his Campos Racing Chevrolet into the walls through the street circuit’s twists.
Nicky Catsburg also crashed his Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo, stopping just outside the pit lane. The Dutch driver had posted a time quick enough to get into Q2, but as he received assistance from the marshals to get back to pit lane, he could take no further part.
With the field depleted to eleven cars for Q2, the drama continued when the second Polestar Volvo was eliminated. This time it was Néstor Girolami, who crashed at Police and was hit by Mehdi Bennani who could do nothing to avoid the Argentine. A red flag was triggered to clear the track.
When the session resumed, John Filippi compounded Sébastien Loeb Racing’s nightmare by swiping his Citroën against the barriers at the final corner. The Corsican’s left-rear wheel was ripped clean off his car, bringing a halt to proceedings once again.
This created a quandary in determining the starting order for Saturday’s reversed-grid Opening Race, which relies on the fastest ten qualifiers’ times. Out laps were therefore used to determine the results for those unable to set a time, with Girolami classified tenth-fastest. The Volvo driver, however, has an engine change grid penalty, meaning Bennani will start from pole position alongside Tom Coronel.
Huff kept his nerve to make it into the Q3 shootout along with fellow Citroën runner Tom Chilton in the sole remaining Sébastien Loeb Racing entry. Also through were Esteban Guerrieri and the grid two main title protagonists Norbert Michelisz and Thed Björk.
In the end, it was Huff who prevailed with a record-breaking lap time to claim pole position ahead of Michelisz. Chilton qualified third-fastest ahead of Björk and Guerrieri.
|2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship Guia Race of Macau – Final Qualifying Results|
|1.||Rob Huff||Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée||2:23.995||IND|
|2.||Norbert Michelisz||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||2:24.301|
|3.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||2:24.844||IND|
|4.||Thed Björk||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||2:25.146|
|5.||Esteban Guerrieri||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||2:25.240|
|6.||Kevin Gleason||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||2:28.059||IND|
|7.||Ryo Michigami||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||2:28.929|
|8.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||2:33.966||IND|
|9.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||no time||IND|
|10.||Néstor Girolami||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||no time|
|11.||John Filippi||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||no time||IND|
|12.||Nick Catsburg||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||no time|
|13.||Yann Ehrlacher||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||2:28.281||IND|
|14.||Zsolt Dávid Szabó||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||2:30.256||IND|
|15.||Dániel Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||2:31.628||IND|
|16.||Mak Ka Lok||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||2:35.183||IND|
|17.||Po Wah Wong||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||no time||IND|
|18.||Ma Qing Hua||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||no time||IND|
|WD.||Kin-Pong Chan||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||unwell||IND|
* Post-Qualifying Penalties:
- Néstor Girolami – who provisionally qualified tenth-fastest – will start the Opening Race from the back of the grid due to an unscheduled engine change.
Image via FIA WTCC Media