Just 0.079 seconds separated YMR teammates Thed Björk and Yvan Muller on the stopwatch around one 25.3-kilometre lap of the daunting Nürburgring Nordschleife.
The pair secured a front row lockout in a thrilling qualifying session for the opening race of the FIA World Touring Car Cup round in Germany, leading a Hyundai 1-2-3 as Norbert Michelisz secured third-fastest in his BMR Racing Team i30 N TCR.
Thursday’s earlier practice sessions were held in damp conditions, with DTM champion René Rast quickest in both in his wildcard WRT Audi entry.
The track had completely dried by the start of qualifying and it was immediately apparent that the Hyundais were on the pace, despite running with the highest base weight following the latest Balance of Performance adjustments.
Björk held provisional pole over Michelisz at the end of his first flying lap, with Robb Huff third-quickest in his Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen.
The Swede went quicker on his second lap, obliterating the previous TCR lap record with his 8:58.700 effort. Michelisz attempted to respond, but a mistake in Sector 2 meant the Hungarian backed off and did not improve.
YMR owner/driver Yvan Muller moved into contention, falling fractions short of snatching pole position from Björk.
Rast moved into third-fastest overall, but was subsequently beaten by Huff and then Michelisz, before the pair was split by Esteban Guerrieri in the Münnich Motorsport Honda.
With Huff and Rast securing the third row of the grid, WTCR points leader Gabriele Tarquini was a comparatively subdued seventh in the second BRC Racing Team Honda ahead of Gordon Shedden’s WRT Audi. The Boutsen Ginion Racing Hondas of Tom Coronel and Benjamin Lessennes completed the top-ten.
It wouldn’t be qualifying the Nordschleife without the session claiming a few victims, and Thursday afternoon’s session proved to be no exception. With Zengõ Motorsport down to one car while Zsolt Szabó’s Cupra was still undergoing repairs following his earlier practice smash, teammate Norbert Nagy crashed out at the end of the session.
The Hungarian youngster joined Aurélien Panis on the sidelines after the Frenchman crashed his Comtoyou Racing Audi at the Hatzenbach.
The first race takes place this evening at 19:45 CET (UTC +2).
|2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup Race of Germany – Race 1 Final Qualifying Results|
|1.||Thed Björk||MRacing – YMR||8:58.700|
|2.||Yvan Muller||MRacing – YMR||8:58.779||+ 0.079|
|3.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Racing Team||8:59.065||+ 0.365|
|4.||Esteban Guerrieri||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||8:59.654||+ 0.954|
|5.||Rob Huff||Sébastien Loeb Racing||8:59.909||+ 1.209|
|6.||René Rast||Audi Sport Team WRT||9:00.471||+ 1.771|
|7.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Racing Team||9:00.728||+ 2.028|
|8.||Gordon Shedden||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||9:01.235||+ 2.535|
|9.||Tom Coronel||Boutsen Ginion Racing||9:02.153||+ 3.453|
|10.||Benjamin Lessennes||Boutsen Ginion Racing||9:02.228||+ 3.528|
|11.||Yann Ehrlacher||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||9:02.689||+ 3.989|
|12.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||9:03.038||+ 4.338|
|13.||Pepe Oriola||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||9:04.103||+ 5.403|
|14.||Mat’o Homola||DG Sport Compétition||9:04.457||+ 5.757|
|15.||Frédéric Vervisch||Audi Sport Team Comtoyou||9:04.909||+ 6.209|
|16.||Denis Dupont||Comtoyou Racing||9:05.221||+ 6.521|
|17.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Racing||9:05.732||+ 7.032|
|18.||Aurélien Comte||DG Sport Compétition||9:05.986||+ 7.286|
|19.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing||9:06.192||+ 7.492|
|20.||Nathanaël Berthon||Comtoyou Racing||9:06.319||+ 7.619|
|21.||Kris Richard||KCMG||9:08.282||+ 9.582|
|22.||Fabrizio Giovanardi||Mulsanne SRL||9:08.639||+ 9.939|
|23.||Gianni Morbidelli||Mulsanne SRL||9:09.933||+ 11.233|
|24.||John Filippi||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||9:10.726||+ 12.026|
|25.||Norbert Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport||9:10.821||+ 12.121|
|26.||James Thompson||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||9:13.428||+ 14.728|
|NQ.||Zsolt Dávid Szabó||Zengõ Motorsport||no time|
- René Rast – who provisionally qualified 6th-fastest – will serve a ten-place grid penalty for failing to slow sufficiently through a yellow flag zone.
- Gordon Shedden – who provisionally qualified 8th-fastest – will serve a ten-place grid penalty for failing to slow sufficiently through a yellow flag zone.
- Benjamin Lessennes – who provisionally qualified 10th-fastest – will serve a three-place grid penalty for impeding Rob Huff during qualifying.
Image via FIA WTCR Media