Thed Björk and Norbert Michelisz have secured a remarkable all-Hyundai front row for this weekend’s final FIA World Touring Car Cup race at Vila Real, less than 24 hours after both drivers’ cars appeared to have been written off in the opening lap smash in Saturday’s race.
The duo became the first drivers to lap the daunting 4.6-kilometre street circuit under the two-minute barrier to-date this weekend, and with Michelisz’s teammate Gabriele Tarquini claiming third-fastest it was a Hyundai 1-2-3 result.
All but three of the 27-car field was able to participate in this morning’s qualifying session. Not surprisingly, the two Sébastien Loeb Racing entries of Rob Huff and Mehdi Bennani who triggered yesterday’s carnage were ruled out, along with the third Münnich Motorsport Honda of James Thompson.
Björk set the early pace in Q1, which was twice red-flagged when Frédéric Vervisch’s Comtoyou Racing Audi lost a driveshaft and Tom Coronel’s Boutsen Ginion Honda crashed out. The Swede was overhauled after the second red flag thanks to a late effort was Tarquini that helped the Italian move into the second qualifying stage.
Björk and Tarquini posted identical lap times on their first Q2 runs, while new championship leader Yvan Muller and his chief title rival Yann Ehrlacher both suffered punctures. Both would recover, although only Ehrlacher was able to make it through to the final one-lap shootout for pole position reserved for the fastest five drivers.
Muller finished the session ninth-fastest, giving himself a front-row start behind Gordon Shedden for Sunday’s reversed-grid race and a shot at claiming back-to-back race wins after his lucky victory on Saturday.
Björk ultimately was fastest in Q2 to give himself the final run in Q3, and he bettered the effort with the fastest lap of the weekend to claim pole position. Michelisz finished second-fastest ahead of Tarquini, with Pepe Oriola a fine fourth in his Campos Racing Cupra and Ehrlacher fifth after a mistake on his hot lap.
The second race of the weekend follows at 15:45 local time (GMT +1), with the final race taking place at 17:10.
|2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup Race of Portugal – Races 2 & 3 Final Qualifying Results|
|1.||Thed Björk||MRacing – YMR||1:59.824|
|2.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Racing Team||2:00.164||+ 0.340|
|3.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Racing Team||2:00.319||+ 0.495|
|4.||Pepe Oriola||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||2:00.426||+ 0.602|
|5.||Yann Ehrlacher||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||2:01.266||+ 1.442|
|6.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Racing||2:00.627||+ 0.681|
|7.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||2:00.636||+ 0.690|
|8.||Mat’o Homola||DG Sport Compétition||2:00.637||+ 0.691|
|9.||Yvan Muller||MRacing – YMR||2:01.011||+ 1.065|
|10.||Gordon Shedden||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||2:01.114||+ 1.168|
|11.||John Filippi||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||2:01.131||+ 1.185|
|12.||Benjamin Lessennes||Boutsen Ginion Racing||2:01.135||+ 1.189|
|13.||Nathanaël Berthon||Comtoyou Racing||2:01.626||+ 1.062|
|14.||Aurélien Comte||DG Sport Compétition||2:01.654||+ 1.090|
|15.||Fabrizio Giovanardi||Mulsanne SRL||2:01.721||+ 1.157|
|16.||Norbert Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport||2:01.750||+ 1.186|
|17.||Edgar Florindo||Rui Edgar Macedo Florindo||2:01.809||+ 1.245|
|18.||Denis Dupont||Comtoyou Racing||2:01.983||+ 1.419|
|19.||Esteban Guerrieri||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||2:02.345||+ 1.781|
|20.||Gianni Morbidelli||Mulsanne SRL||2:02.421||+ 1.857|
|21.||Frédéric Vervisch||Audi Sport Team Comtoyou||2:02.726||+ 2.162|
|22.||Zsolt Dávid Szabó||Zengõ Motorsport||2:03.115||+ 2.551|
|23.||José Rodrigues||Target Competition||2:03.593||+ 3.029|
|24.||Tom Coronel||Boutsen Ginion Racing||2:06.503||+ 5.939|
|WD.||Rob Huff||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Withdrew|
|WD.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Withdrew|
|WD.||James Thompson||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Withdrew|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 qualifying time of 1:59.946 posted by Thed Björk
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 qualifying time of 2:00.564 posted by Gabriele Tarquini
Image via FIA WTCR Media