Nicky Catsburg carried his practice pace into qualifying for the opening World Touring Car Cup race at the Slovakia Ring, with the BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team driver narrowly beating fellow Hyundai pilot Norbert Michelisz to pole position.
The Dutch driver has had a trying start in his return to world cup level touring car racing, but the five bonus points earned for pole and the pace of the Hyundai i30 N TCR will bode well for his confidence heading into Sunday’s opening nine-lap race.
He and Michelisz were the class of the field in the 30-minute qualifying session, which saw the form guide given a dramatic shake-up following compensation weight adjustments that particularly hurt their Honda and Lynk & Co rivals.
Michelisz was the early pace-setter in qualifying and became the first to dip below the 2m10s barrier over the weekend. As the session wore on and a number of teammates worked together to give each other a slipstream, Catsburg emerged at the top of the time sheets with a 2:09.498. Michelisz improved on a later run, but came up just 0.028 seconds short of snatching back pole.
Being the only cars running without any compensation weight, the field’s two Alfa Romeo Giuliettas show rapid pace for the first time this season. Ma Qing Hua qualified an excellent third-fastest (without the benefit of a tow) while teammate Kevin Ceccon qualified sixth-fastest. Sandwiched between them were the Cupras of Daniel Häglof (PWR Racing) and Tom Coronel (Comtoyou Racing), with the latter also achieving his best starting position of the season.
Team WRT’s Jean-Karl Vernay finished the session as the best-placed Audi runner in seventh, with the sister RS3 LMS of Frédéric Vervisch (Comtoyou Team Audi Sport) qualifying ninth-fastest. They were split by championship frontrunner Esteban Guerrieri (Münnich Motorsport), who was eighth-quickest overall in the lead Honda – the Argentine’s teammate and championship leader Néstor Girolami qualified eleventh.
Mehdi Bennani completed the top ten and produced the strongest one-lap performance to-date of the Volkswagen quartet, although stablemates Benjamin Leuchter (15th), Johan Kristoffersson (22nd) and Rob Huff (24th) failed to replicate the Moroccan’s turn of speed.
The new Lynk & Co machines were found wanting by dint of the cars’ lack of straight-line speed. Yvan Muller was their sole representative inside the top-twenty, while fellow runners Thed Björk, Yann Ehrlacher and Andy Priaulx fill the last three starting positions on the grid.
|2019 FIA WTCR Race of Slovakia – Race 1 Qualifying Results|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||2:09.498|
|2.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||2:09.526||+ 0.028|
|3.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Mulsanne||2:09.907||+ 0.409|
|4.||Daniel Haglöf||PWR Racing||2:10.108||+ 0.610|
|5.||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||2:10.154||+ 0.656|
|6.||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||2:10.339||+ 0.841|
|7.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||2:10.374||+ 0.876|
|8.||Esteban Guerrieri||Münnich Motorsport||2:10.382||+ 0.884|
|9.||Frédéric Vervisch||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||2:10.403||+ 0.905|
|10.||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||2:10.430||+ 0.932|
|11.||Néstor Girolami||Münnich Motorsport||2:10.495||+ 0.997|
|12.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||2:10.511||+ 1.013|
|13.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||2:10.517||+ 1.019|
|14.||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||2:10.544||+ 1.046|
|15.||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||2:10.687||+ 1.189|
|16.||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||2:10.746||+ 1.248|
|17.||Gordon Shedden||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||2:10.826||+ 1.328|
|18.||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||2:10.944||+ 1.446|
|19.||Augusto Farfus||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||2:10.978||+ 1.480|
|20.||Luca Engstler (WC)||Hyundai Team Engstler||2:11.005||+ 1.507|
|21.||Tiago Monteiro||KCMG||2:11.081||+ 1.583|
|22.||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||2:11.212||+ 1.714|
|23.||Attila Tassi||KCMG||2:11.307||+ 1.809|
|24.||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||2:11.345||+ 1.847|
|25.||Thed Björk||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||2:11.363||+ 1.865|
|26.||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||2:11.467||+ 1.969|
|27.||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||2:11.697||+ 2.199|
- The fastest five qualifiers and their respective teams are awarded championship points on a 5-4-3-2-1 sliding scale.
- Gabriele Tarquini will serve a 5-place grid penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Yann Ehrlacher at the Race of Hungary (Race 2).
Images via FIA WTCR Media