Thed Björk has claimed a clean sweep of qualifying honours at this weekend’s FIA World Touring Car Cup round at Ningbo International Speedpark after winning pole position for Sunday’s final race.
The Swede, who won the weekend’s opening race from pole position on Saturday, came out on top in another closely-fought qualifying session around the twisty and undulating four-kilometre circuit. He and his fellow Hyundai runners once again proved to be the class of the 25-car field, with three of the grid’s four i30 N TCR entries making it through to the final Q3 shootout for pole position.
The YMR and BRC Racing Team entries dominated the opening phase of qualifying and were only denied a 1-2-3-4 result at the top of the timesheets by Esteban Guerrieri in the Münnich Motorsport Honda. The Argentine would feature as a threat throughout the session, going fastest of all in Q2. He was unable to repeat the dose in the final one-lap shootout and qualified third-fastest behind Björk – claiming his sixth pole position of the season – and BRC’s Norbert Michelisz.
The first segment of Saturday’s three-part qualifying session produced few major surprises, although championship frontrunner Jean-Karl Vernay’s troubles this weekend continued when he narrowly missed the top-twelve cut. The Team WRT driver was pipped to a Q2 berth by just 0.08 seconds by fellow Audi runner Frédéric Vervisch and will start both of Sunday’s races from thirteenth on the grid.
The 10-minute Q2 session allowed time for just two one-lap runs per driver and with Guerrieri emerging quickest of all he would be joined by Björk, Michelisz, championship leader Gabriele Tarquini and the Sébastien Loeb Racing VW Golf of Rob Huff.
First out on track in Q3, Huff set a solid benchmark time but he was soon demoted by Björk who clocked an ultimately unbeatable effort of 1:50.371 on his one flying lap. Tarquini made a small mistake in the second sector but still beat Huff on the stopwatch, but the Italian ace was still edged by Michelisz and Guerrieri who followed him out on track.
Fourth-fastest overall, Tarquini picked up a further two championship points to extend his advantage over Björk’s teammate Yvan Muller – who qualified ninth-fastest, which is a front-row start on the reversed-grid Race 2 – to eleven points.
With the fastest ten qualifiers’ grid order reversed for Race 2 – which begins at 14:20 local time – pole position will be held by Mehdi Bennani in the second SLR Golf GTI.
|2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup Race of China Ningbo – Races 2 & 3 Final Qualifying Results|
|1.||Thed Björk||MRacing – YMR||1:50.371|
|2.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Racing Team||1:50.474||+ 0.103|
|3.||Esteban Guerrieri||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||1:50.517||+ 0.146|
|4.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Racing Team||1:50.622||+ 0.251|
|5.||Rob Huff||Sébastien Loeb Racing||1:50.902||+ 0.531|
|6.||Denis Dupont||Comtoyou Racing||1:50.591||+ 0.441|
|7.||Frédéric Vervisch||Audi Sport Team Comtoyou||1:50.602||+ 0.452|
|8.||Yann Ehrlacher||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||1:50.729||+ 0.579|
|9.||Yvan Muller||MRacing – YMR||1:50.732||+ 0.582|
|10.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing||1:50.913||+ 0.763|
|11.||Nathanaël Berthon||Comtoyou Racing||1:51.070||+ 0.920|
|12.||Ma Qing Hua||Boutsen Ginion Racing||1:51.464||+ 1.314|
|13.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||1:51.145||+ 0.739|
|14.||Aurélien Comte||DG Sport Compétition||1:51.169||+ 0.763|
|15.||Pepe Oriola||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||1:51.190||+ 0.784|
|16.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Racing||1:51.205||+ 0.799|
|17.||Zsolt Dávid Szabó||Zengõ Motorsport||1:51.226||+ 0.820|
|18.||Timo Scheider||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||1:51.484||+ 1.078|
|19.||Kevin Ceccon||Mulsanne SRL||1:51.759||+ 1.353|
|20.||Norbert Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport||1:51.774||+ 1.368|
|21.||John Filippi||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||1:51.871||+ 1.465|
|22.||Gordon Shedden||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||1:51.946||+ 1.540|
|23.||Mat’o Homola||DG Sport Compétition||1:52.023||+ 1.617|
|24.||Tom Coronel||Boutsen Ginion Racing||1:52.183||+ 1.777|
|25.||Fabrizio Giovanardi||Mulsanne SRL||1:52.201||+ 1.795|
* Denotes gap to the fastest Q2 qualifying time of 1:50.150 posted by Esteban Guerrieri
** Denotes gap to the fastest Q1 qualifying time of 1:50.406 posted by Yvan Muller
Image via FIA WTCR Media