The KCMG Honda team has claimed a fairytale qualifying result in the World Touring Car Cup’s visit to Vila Real, with Attila Tassi and teammate Tiago Monteiro locking out the front row for Sunday’s final race.
The Hong Kong owned outfit has underperformed all season in contrast to Honda stablemates Münnich Motorsport, which leads both the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championship standings. A recent decision between the two Honda customer outfits to operate more collaboratively has paid dividends.
BRC Racing Hyundai had dominated Saturday’s qualifying session, but the i30 N TCRs struggled in Sunday’s knockout format. Race 1 pole-sitter and winner Norbert Michelisz was one of the Korean car brand’s three drivers eliminated in Q1, qualifying 16th-fastest ahead of teammate Gabriele Tarquini. Worse was to befall Augusto Farfus, who finished third in Race 1, with the Brazilian crashing into the barriers early on.
That left Nicky Catsburg as the sole Hyundai runner to make the top-twelve cut for Q2, while Rob Huff was similarly the only Volkswagen Golf GTI runner into the second session as well. Headlined by Tassi, who was the quickest in Q1, all four Honda runners and both Alfa Romeo runners made the cut.
The second qualifying session saw Tassi break Michelisz’s qualifying lap record posted the day before, with the Hungarian teenager clocking a rapid 1:59.445 before Kevin Ceccon smashed his Alfa Romeo into the same barriers that had just been repaired after Farfus’ accident.
The session was red-flagged so further repairs could be undertaken, and once the session had restarted only Huff and Yann Ehrlacher (Cyan Performance Lynk & Co) were able to improve their fastest times, breaking into the top-five cut-off for Q3.
Néstor Girolami (Münnich Motorsport) was the slowest of the runners to set a time and will start both races from eleventh on the grid. Tenth-fastest was the other Alfa Romeo of Ma Qing Hua, who therefore claims pole position for the reversed-grid second race and will share the front row of the grid with Girolami’s teammate and championship leader Esteban Guerrieri.
This left the two KCMG Hondas in to Q3 for the first time this season, while it was a family affair with the Lynk & Co entries of Yvan Muller and his nephew Yann Ehrlacher joining Huff in the top-five.
Huff was the first out on track for the one-lap Q3 shootout, setting a strong banker lap that was swiftly beaten by Ehrlacher. Monteiro delighted his home supporters by snatching provisional pole, and their excitement was furthered when Muller made a mistake in the final sector. Only Tassi could deny his teammate a fairytale pole, and he duly went on to claim top spot – a deserved result given he had been quickest in both previous knockout sessions.
|2019 FIA WTCR Race of Portugal – Race 2 & 3 Qualifying Results|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|2.||Tiago Monteiro||KCMG||1:59.949||+ 0.141|
|3.||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||2:00.122||+ 0.314|
|4.||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||2:00.286||+ 0.478|
|5.||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||2:00.424||+ 0.616|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|6.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||1:59.918||+ 0.473|
|7.||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||1:59.936||+ 0.491|
|8.||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||1:59.955||+ 0.510|
|9.||Esteban Guerrieri||Münnich Motorsport||1:59.992||+ 0.547|
|10.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Mulsanne||2:00.219||+ 0.774|
|11.||Néstor Girolami||Münnich Motorsport||2:00.515||+ 1.070|
|12.||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||no time|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|13.||Frédéric Vervisch||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||2:00.056||+ 0.472|
|14.||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||2:00.062||+ 0.478|
|15.||Thed Björk||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||2:00.233||+ 0.649|
|16.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||2:00.242||+ 0.658|
|17.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||2:00.475||+ 0.891|
|18.||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||2:00.541||+ 0.957|
|19.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||2:00.650||+ 1.066|
|20.||Augusto Farfus||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||2:00.779||+ 1.195|
|21.||Gordon Shedden||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||2:01.119||+ 1.535|
|22.||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||2:01.167||+ 1.583|
|23.||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||2:01.217||+ 1.633|
|24.||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||2:01.305||+ 1.721|
|25.||Daniel Haglöf||PWR Racing||2:01.727||+ 2.143|
|26.||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||2:01.956||+ 2.372|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:59.445 posted by Attila Tassi.
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:59.584 posted by Attila Tassi.
- The fastest five qualifiers and their respective teams are awarded championship points on a 5-4-3-2-1 sliding scale.
- Gabriele Tarquini, who provisionally qualified 17th-fastest, will start Race 2 from the back of the grid for an unscheduled engine change.
- Augusto Farfus, who provisionally qualified 20th-fastest, will start Race 2 from the back of the grid for an unscheduled engine change.
Images via FIA WTCR Media