Rob Huff and Sébastien Loeb Racing teammate Mehdi Bennani have claimed a front-row lockout for the opening FIA World Touring Car Cup race at Vila Real.
The pair secured the French team’s first 1-2 qualifying result in its WTCR history in an incident-filled qualifying session disrupted by no less than four separate red flags,
While the Yvan Muller Racing Hyundais had set the early practice pace, Huff managed to unlock more from the SLR Volkswagen Golf GTI package in the midst of seemingly constant interruptions to the session as a number of drivers found the barriers around the 4.6-kilometre street circuit.
The Englishman’s quickest time of all, a 2:00.924 saw him beat teammate Bennani by just 0.027 seconds thanks to a quick middle sector. Another hot lap saw him quickest in the first sector and potentially on course to go even faster, only for the red flags to be unfurled for the fourth and final time when Jean-Karl Vernay put his WRT Audi into the wall.
With barely two minutes to go on the clock – not even enough time for anyone to complete an out-lap – officials mercifully opted to end the session altogether.
Behind the two SLR VWs, Norbert Michelisz will start from third place in his BRC Racing Hyundai i30 ahead of championship leader Yann Ehrlacher’s Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic.
Practice pace-setter Thed Björk could not repeat the pace he had showcased earlier in the day and could only qualify fifth-fastest in his YMR Hyundai. His fastest lap was actually half a second slower than the best time he had closed during Free Practice.
The reigning FIA WTCC title-winner will share the third row of the grid with teammate and team owner Yvan Muller, who was lucky to survive clipping the barrier exiting the second chicane just before the session’s first red flag.
The grid’s top ten was completed by John Filippi (Campos Racing Cupra), Esteban Guerrier (Münnich Motorsport Honda), Gabriele Tarquini (BRC Racing Hyundai) and the aforementioned Vernay.
The first race of the weekend follows at 16:00 WEST / 17:00 CEST.
|2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup Race of Portugal – Race 1 Final Qualifying Results|
|1.||Rob Huff||Sébastien Loeb Racing||2:00.924|
|2.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing||2:00.951||+ 0.027|
|3.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Racing Team||2:01.280||+ 0.356|
|4.||Yann Ehrlacher||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||2:01.445||+ 0.521|
|5.||Thed Björk||MRacing – YMR||2:01.683||+ 0.759|
|6.||Yvan Muller||MRacing – YMR||2:01.765||+ 0.841|
|7.||John Filippi||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||2:02.075||+ 1.151|
|8.||Esteban Guerrieri||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||2:02.168||+ 1.185|
|9.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Racing Team||2:02.357||+ 1.244|
|10.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||2:02.357||+ 1.433|
|11.||James Thompson||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||2:02.540||+ 1.616|
|12.||Zsolt Dávid Szabó||Zengõ Motorsport||2:02.592||+ 1.668|
|13.||Pepe Oriola||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||2:02.792||+ 1.818|
|14.||Benjamin Lessennes||Boutsen Ginion Racing||2:02.882||+ 1.958|
|15.||Aurélien Comte||DG Sport Compétition||2:02.942||+ 2.018|
|16.||Tom Coronel||Boutsen Ginion Racing||2:03.211||+ 2.287|
|17.||Nathanaël Berthon||Comtoyou Racing||2:03.223||+ 2.299|
|18.||Gordon Shedden||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||2:03.333||+ 2.409|
|19.||Frédéric Vervisch||Audi Sport Team Comtoyou||2:03.390||+ 2.466|
|20.||Fabrizio Giovanardi||Mulsanne SRL||2:03.412||+ 2.488|
|21.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Racing||2:03.469||+ 2.545|
|22.||Mat’o Homola||DG Sport Compétition||2:03.479||+ 2.555|
|23.||Norbert Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport||2:03.710||+ 2.786|
|24.||Gianni Morbidelli||Mulsanne SRL||2:03.958||+ 3.034|
|25.||Denis Dupont||Comtoyou Racing||2:04.450||+ 3.526|
|26.||Edgar Florindo||Rui Edgar Macedo Florindo||2:05.462||+ 4.538|
|27.||José Rodrigues||Target Competition||no time|
Image via FIA WTCR Media