A slipstream from teammate and nephew Yann Ehrlacher propelled Yvan Muller to pole position for the opening World Touring Car Cup race at Macau. The Lynk & Co driver strung together a flawless final flying lap to snatch top spot from Norbert Michelisz.
The French veteran clocked a 2:28.661 on his final flying lap, beating Rob Huff’s qualifying lap record set last year by almost half a second. He finished just six-hundredths of a second faster than Michelisz in the final reckoning, reclaiming top spot on the timesheets after the BRC Hyundai Squadra Corse driver had demoted him only five minutes before.
“It was an amazing session,” Muller said after claiming pole position. “Anything can happen at Macau. As a team we did a brilliant job. I have to thank my teammates for the tow, particularly Andy [Priaulx] and Yann, and it was Yann who gave me the tow that made the difference.”
The less-than-fancied Lynk & Co entries have been on the pace all weekend, so it was little surprise to see Muller joined by stablemates Andy Priaulx and Yann Ehrlacher who qualified third- and fifth-fastest, split by the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo of Kevin Ceccon. The other Lynk & Co of Thed Björk was sixth-fastest, ensuring all four of the Chinese cars qualified on the first three rows of the grid.
Nine-time Macau winner Rob Huff was seventh-fastest in his SLR VW Motorsport Golf GTI, with defending WTCR champion Gabriele Tarquini sharing the fourth row of the grid in the other BRC Hyundai Squadra Corse i30 N TCR.
Completing the top ten were Macau rookies Benjamin Leuchter (SLR Volkswagen) and Mikel Azcona (PWR Racing Cupra). Frédéric Vervisch (Comtoyou Team Audi Sport) was the fastest of the field’s five RS3 LMS runners in eleventh.
Despite a drop in their compensation weight this weekend, the Honda runners struggles in Thursday’s two practice sessions carried into the first qualifying session. Championship leader Esteban Guerrieri (Münnich Motorsport) was the fastest of the Japanese marque’s representatives in thirteenth-fastest, however the Argentine will start Race 1 from the back of the grid after the team applied for an unscheduled engine change. With title rival Michelisz qualifying second-fastest, the gap between the pair in the Drivers’ Championship standings has been cut to just two points.
The session was briefly interrupted when the luckless Mehdi Bennani crashed his SLR VW Motorsport Golf into the barriers with twelve minutes to go in the session. The Moroccan was stripped of his fastest lap time for triggering a red flag.
Of the field’s six wildcard drivers, just two – Jim Ka To (KC Motorgroup Honda) and local driver Billy Lo (Tian Shi Zuver Team Audi) managed to post a lap time quick enough to warrant qualification.
The second three-part qualifying session of the Guia Race of Macau – which determined the starting grid for Races 2 and 3 – takes place at 13:35 local time (GMT +8). Race 1 will take place on Saturday at 14:30 local time.
|2019 FIA WTCR Guia Race of Macau – Race 1 Qualifying Results|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||2:28.661|
|2.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||2:28.729||+ 0.068|
|3.||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||2:28.806||+ 0.145|
|4.||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||2:28.846||+ 0.185|
|5.||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||2:28.942||+ 0.281|
|6.||Thed Björk||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||2:29.060||+ 0.399|
|7.||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||2:29.451||+ 0.790|
|8.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||2:29.470||+ 0.809|
|9.||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||2:29.660||+ 0.999|
|10.||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||2:29.683||+ 1.022|
|11.||Frédéric Vervisch||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||2:29.709||+ 1.048|
|12.||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||2:29.770||+ 1.109|
|13.||Esteban Guerrieri||Münnich Motorsport||2:29.833||+ 1.172|
|14.||Robert Dahlgren||PWR Racing||2:29.891||+ 1.230|
|15.||Tiago Monteiro||KCMG||2:29.919||+ 1.258|
|16.||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||2:30.039||+ 1.378|
|17.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||2:30.200||+ 1.539|
|18.||Néstor Girolami||Münnich Motorsport||2:30.353||+ 1.692|
|19.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Mulsanne||2:30.445||+ 1.784|
|20.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||2:30.462||+ 1.801|
|21.||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||2:30.788||+ 2.127|
|22.||Attila Tassi||KCMG||2:30.835||+ 2.174|
|23.||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||2:30.867||+ 2.206|
|24.||Gordon Shedden||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||2:30.888||+ 2.227|
|25.||Luca Engstler||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||2:31.533||+ 2.872|
|26.||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||2:31.608||+ 2.947|
|27.||Jim Ka To||KC Motorgroup||2:33.654||+ 4.993|
|28.||Billy Lo Kai Fung||Tian Shi Zuver Team||2:34.791||+ 6.130|
|Outside 105%||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|DNQ.||James Tang Chi Lun||Team TRC||2:36.795||+ 8.134|
|DNQ.||Anson Kwai Wah Wong||Son Veng Racing Team||2:39.999||+ 11.338|
|DNQ.||Terence Kin Leung Tse||Team TRC||2:43.146||+ 14.485|
|DNQ.||Arthur Tin Fan Law||Team TRC||no time|
- The fastest five qualifiers and their respective teams are awarded championship points on a 5-4-3-2-1 sliding scale.
- Esteban Guerrieri will start Race 1 at the back of the grid for an unscheduled engine change.
- Mehdi Bennani was stripped of his fastest lap time for causing a red flag during Qualifying.
- Ma Qing Hua will serve two five-place grid penalties for failing to slow under yellow flag conditions in Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2.
- Billy Lo Kai Fung will serve a five-place grid penalty for failing to slow under yellow flag conditions in Free Practice 1.
- James Tang Chi Lun will serve a five-place grid penalty for failing to slow under yellow flag conditions in Free Practice 1.
- Terence Kin Leung Tse was stripped of his fastest lap time for causing a red flag during Qualifying and will serve a five-place grid penalty for failing to slow under yellow flag conditions in Free Practice 2.
- James Tang Chi Lun, Anson Kwai Wah Wong, 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 Race 1 at the discretion of the FIA Stewards.
Images via FIA WTCR Media