Rob Huff proved once again why he is the master of the streets of Macau by storming to pole position in Friday’s World Touring Car Cup qualifying session for Races 2 and 3.
Fastest in the earlier knockout Q1 and Q2 – the latter seeing him reclaim the unofficial lap record from Yvan Muller – the SLR VW Motorsport driver put in a sensational time in the one-lap Q3 shootout for pole.
Despite being the slowest of the five runners through the flat-out opening sector, Huff was untouchable through the twistier ‘mountain’ sections of the Guia circuit’s 6.12-kilometre layout. It was the Englishman’s ninth pole position at this venue, putting him in prime position to claim an unprecedented tenth win in Sunday’s final race.
“It’s about time,” said Huff. “If it was going to happen it was hopefully going to happen here. This morning we discovered we had a broken damper and that’s why we were where we were. We had high hopes after [topping practice] yesterday. But I think I did probably two of the best laps I’ve ever done of Macau.”
Race 3 will be an all-British front row, with Huff joined by Cyan Performance Lynk & Co driver Andy Priaulx who is enjoying a late-season purple patch. The Guernseyman came closest to toppling Huff’s Q3 effort but fell just two-tenths of a second short of snatching pole.
Priaulx said: “It was a really good lap. I lost the rear going into Dona Maria and it was enough to put me on the back foot. I don’t think there’s much more I could have done.”
Jean-Karl Vernay (Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport) was a fine third-fastest, narrowly avoiding the barriers on several occasions. The same could be said for BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team’s Nicky Catsburg, who had several slides on his flying lap to go fourth-fastest.
Macau rookie Johan Kristoffersson made it through to Q3 in his SLR Volkswagen Golf GTI, however the Swede clipped the barriers at Moorish Bend. He was able to complete his lap, but was the slowest runner in the session.
Priaulx aside, the Cyan Racing-run Lynk & Co entries couldn’t quite repeat their success from the day’s earlier qualifying session. Yvan Muller (P6), Thed Björk (P8) and Yann Ehrlacher (P9) narrowly missed the Q3 cut, however Ehrlacher will start from the front row for the reversed-grid Race 2.
He should have started alongside championship leader Esteban Guerrieri, who qualified his Münnich Motorsport Honda tenth-fastest in what is proving to be an uncompetitive weekend for the Honda runners. Compounding his woes, however, Guerrieri will serve a three-place grid penalty for Race 2 for impeding Catsburg during Q2.
Guerrieri will at least be hoping to claw back some of the points he will undoubtedly lose to title rival Norbert Michelisz in Saturday’s Race 1 in which the BRC Hyundai Squadra Corse driver starts from the front row and Guerrieri from last place due to an engine change penalty.
Michelisz encountered his own bad luck in the opening qualifying session after hitting the stricken Audi of Gordon Shedden after the Scot crashed out at Moorish corner. Despite having posted a time good enough to make it into Q2, Michelisz’s car was too badly damaged to take any further part – he will start Races 2 and 3 from twelfth on the grid.
The PWR Racing stable also had troubles in qualifying, with neither Robert Dahlgren (P21) nor Mikel Azcona (P23) able to make it out of Q1. Dahlgren suffered contact with wildcard Jim Ka To at Fisherman’s Bend, while Azcona may have all but ended his slim championship aspirations with a crash at Lisboa.
Also in the wars was Benjamin Leuchter, who damaged the right-front corner of his SLR Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Billy Lo was the only one of the field’s six wildcard drivers to post a lap time within 105% of Huff’s provisional pole-winning time in Q1, while his five remaining peers will need to rely on the generosity of the FIA Stewards to make the grid for Sunday’s two races.
Race 2 (8 laps) and Race 3 (11 laps) will take place on Sunday at 08:20 and 11:00 local time (GMT +8).
|2019 FIA WTCR Guia Race of Macau – Races 2 & 3 Qualifying Results|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||2:28.538|
|2.||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||2:28.744||+ 0.206|
|3.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||2:29.336||+ 0.798|
|4.||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||2:29.531||+ 0.993|
|5.||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||2:31.569||+ 2.831|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|6.||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||2:28.860||+ 0.897|
|7.||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||2:29.010||+ 1.047|
|8.||Thed Björk||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||2:29.133||+ 1.170|
|9.||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||2:29.291||+ 1.328|
|10.||Esteban Guerrieri||Münnich Motorsport||2:29.571||+ 1.608|
|11.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||2:29.986||+ 2.023|
|12.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||no time|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|13.||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||2:30.070||+ 1.051|
|14.||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||2:30.092||+ 1.073|
|15.||Luca Engstler||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||2:30.146||+ 1.127|
|16.||Gordon Shedden||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||2:30.328||+ 1.309|
|17.||Attila Tassi||KCMG||2:30.359||+ 1.340|
|18.||Néstor Girolami||Münnich Motorsport||2:30.375||+ 1.356|
|19.||Frédéric Vervisch||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||2:30.510||+ 1.491|
|20.||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||2:30.684||+ 1.665|
|21.||Robert Dahlgren||PWR Racing||2:31.048||+ 2.029|
|22.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||2:31.496||+ 2.477|
|23.||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||2:31.605||+ 2.586|
|24.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Mulsanne||2:31.691||+ 2.672|
|25.||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||2:31.871||+ 2.852|
|26.||Tiago Monteiro||KCMG||2:32.183||+ 3.164|
|27.||Billy Lo Kai Fung||Tian Shi Zuver Team||2:35.384||+ 6.365|
|Outside 105%||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|DNQ.||James Tang Chi Lun||Team TRC||2:37.801||+ 8.782|
|DNQ.||Anson Kwai Wah Wong||Son Veng Racing Team||2:41.201||+ 12.182|
|DNQ.||Jim Ka To||KC Motorgroup||no time|
|DNQ.||Terence Kin Leung Tse||Team TRC||no time|
|DNQ.||Arthur Tin Fan Law||Team TRC||no time|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 2:27.963 posted by Rob Huff.
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 2:29.019 posted by Rob Huff.
- The fastest five qualifiers and their respective teams are awarded championship points on a 5-4-3-2-1 sliding scale.
- Esteban Guerrieri will serve a three-place grid penalty in Race 2 for impeding Nicky Catsburg in Qualifying 2.
- Gordon Shedden was stripped of his fastest lap time for causing a red flag during Qualifying.
- James Tang Chi Lun, Anson Kwai Wah Wong, Jim Ka To, Terence Kin Leung Tse and Arthur Tin Fan Law failed to post a qualifying lap time within 105% of the pole-sitting time and will start Races 2 and 3 at the discretion of the FIA Stewards.
Images and text via FIA WTCR Media