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 be 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 be 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

Championship Points:

  • The fastest five qualifiers and their respective teams are awarded championship points on a 5-4-3-2-1 sliding scale.

Post-Qualifying Penalties:

Images via FIA WTCR Media

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.