Rob Huff broke Hyundai’s dominance of qualifying by claiming pole position for the opening World Touring Car Cup race at Zandvoort, taking full advantage of the i30’s struggles under the latest Balance of Performance adjustments.

The Englishman edged out Yann Ehrlacher and Gordon Shedden in a closely-fought qualifying session where the fastest fifteen runners were covered by less than one second.

Huff was one of the session’s early pacesetters in his Sébastien Loeb Racing VW Golf GTI, holding provisional top spot on the timesheets midway through the session when it was briefly red-flagged in order for marshals to retrieve Zsolt Szabó’s beached Zengõ Motorsport Cupra from the gravel trap at Renaultbocht.

His place at the top of the timing screens was temporarily claimed by Ehrlacher’s Münnich Motorsport Honda when the session resumed, but the former FIA WTCC title-winner unlocked more speed and posted a 1:43.945 to secure pole position by just 0.113 seconds.

The impressive Ehrlacher held on to secure a front-row start, with the WRT Audi duo of Gordon Shedden and Jean-Karl Vernay locking out the grid’s second row in third and fourth respectively.

Boutsen Ginion Racing stand-in Benjamin Lessennes continued his fine ‘super sub’ form by grabbing fifth in his Honda ahead of the leading Comtoyou Racing Audi of Nathanaël Berthon.

The twisty, lower-speed Zandvoort layout proved to be more to the liking of the little Peugeot 308, with Aurélien Comte putting his DG Sport Compétition entry a superb seventh-fastest ahead of local favourite Tom Coronel in the second Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda.

Frédéric Vervisch (Comtoyou Audi) and Esteban Guerrieri (Münnich Motorsport Honda) completed the top ten.

A 2.5% peak horsepower hit and an increased minimum ride height hammered the competitiveness of the field’s four Hyundai runners, who came into the weekend occupying the top four spots in the championship standings.

Norbert Michelisz was the best of the quartet in his BRC Racing machine, qualifying 14th-fastest, however the Hungarian will take a five-place grid penalty for the opening race. YMR duo Thed Björk and current championship leader Yvan Muller qualified 19th and 21st respectively, while early season points leader Gabriele Tarquini was 24th-fastest, beating only the aforementioned Szabó and local wildcards Michael Verhagen and Prince Bernhard van Oranje.

The first of the weekend’s three races takes place on Saturday at 16:20 local time (GMT +2).

2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup Race of Netherlands – Race 1 Final Qualifying Results
Driver Team Time Gap
1. Rob Huff Sébastien Loeb Racing 1:43.945
2. Yann Ehrlacher ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 1:44.058 + 0.113
3. Gordon Shedden Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team 1:44.102 + 0.157
4. Jean-Karl Vernay Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team 1:44.252 + 0.307
5. Benjamin Lessennes be Boutsen Ginion Racing 1:44.340 + 0.395
6. Nathanaël Berthon Comtoyou Racing 1:44.488 + 0.543
7. Aurélien Comte DG Sport Compétition 1:44.531 + 0.586
8. Tom Coronel Boutsen Ginion Racing 1:44.596 + 0.651
9. Frédéric Vervisch be Audi Sport Team Comtoyou 1:44.597 + 0.652
10. Esteban Guerrieri ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 1:44.599 + 0.654
11. Mehdi Bennani Sébastien Loeb Racing 1:44.671 + 0.726
12. Aurélien Panis Comtoyou Racing 1:44.689 + 0.744
13. Denis Dupont be Comtoyou Racing 1:44.719 + 0.774
14. Norbert Michelisz BRC Racing Team 1:44.790 + 0.845
15. James Thompson ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 1:44.939 + 0.994
16. Gianni Morbidelli it Mulsanne SRL 1:44.975 + 1.030
17. Pepe Oriola es Team OSCARO by Campos Racing 1:45.102 + 1.157
18. John Filippi Team OSCARO by Campos Racing 1:45.128 + 1.183
19. Thed Björk MRacing – YMR 1:45.195 + 1.250
20. Fabrizio Giovanardi it Mulsanne SRL 1:45.387 + 1.442
21. Yvan Muller MRacing – YMR 1:45.451 + 1.506
22. Mat’o Homola DG Sport Compétition 1:45.535 + 1.590
23. Norbert Nagy Zengõ Motorsport 1:45.607 + 1.662
24. Gabriele Tarquini it BRC Racing Team 1:45.622 + 1.677
25. Michael Verhagen Bas Koeten Racing 1:45.743 + 1.798
26. Zsolt Dávid Szabó Zengõ Motorsport 1:46.182 + 2.237
27. Bernhard van Oranje Bas Koeten Racing 1:46.603 + 2.658

Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • Norbert Michelisz – who provisionally qualified 14th-fastest – will serve a 5-place grid penalty for colliding with Rob Huff during Race 2 at the preceding Race of Germany event.

Image via FIA WTCR Media

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.