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|
|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||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||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||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||Mulsanne SRL||1:44.975||+ 1.030|
|17.||Pepe Oriola||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||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||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|
- 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