Qualifying report: Hyundai-powered Azcona aces it in Hungary for BRC with dramatic WTCR pole lap
Speedy Spaniard Mikel Azcona was the driver to beat in qualifying at WTCR Race of Hungary to clinch pole position for Race 1 at the Hungaroring.
WTCR Race of Hungary Qualifying Q3 classification
1 Mikel Azcona (ESP) BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, 1m52.020s (140.7kph)
2 Nathanaël Berthon (FRA), Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, 1m52.148s (140.6kph)
3 Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR, 1m52.344s (140.3kph)
4 Esteban Guerieri (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Audi RS 3 LMS, No time
5 Gilles Magnus (BEL) Comtoyou Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS, No time
Reverse-grid pole for Race 2: Santiago Urrutia, Cyan Performance Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR
WTCR Race of Hungary Qualifying points allocation
10 points: Gilles Magnus, Comtoyou Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS, 1m51.684s
8 points: Yann Ehrlacher, Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR, 1m51.687s
6 points: Nathanaël Berthon, Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, 1m51.707s
4 points: Mikel Azcona, BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, 1m51.768s
2 points: Esteban Guerieri, ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Audi RS 3 LMS, 1m51.804s
Azcona, driving BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse’s Hyundai Elantra N TCR, emerged on top from a dramatic Q3 shootout to beat Nathanaël Berthon in his Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport RS3 LMS and King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher.
“That was very tough, I have to say,” said Azcona after securing his first pole position since WTCR Race of Czech Republic at Most last year. “Everything is very close and we are all together, but I’m very happy with this first pole position of the year. Very happy for the team because we are working so hard every single day. The car was working amazingly and we need to use this opportunity tomorrow to take the victory. I know it is not going to be easy, but we will use this opportunity and look for the championship as well which is so long.”
Goodyear #FollowTheLeader fastest in Q1
Honda-powered Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Néstor Girolami (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport) set the pace with a strong time of 1m51.86s in the 20-minute Q1 session from local hero Nobert Michelisz (BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse), Berthon and Santiago Urrutia (Cyan Performance Lynk & Co). Those who just made the cut to progress to Q2 included another local ace Dániel Nagy, who was just on the bubble in P12 for Zengő Motorsport. Gilles Magnus (Comtoyou Team Audi Sport) made it through in P10 despite losing laps for track limits violations, with Yvan Muller in P11 for Cyan Racing Lynk & Co.
Thed Björk, who was fastest in the first free practice session, missed out in P13. The others to find themselves out of luck were Honda-powered home hero Attila Tassi (LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler), Mehdi Bennani (Comtoyou Team Audi Sport), Tom Coronel − who pulled off a brilliant save when his Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport entry started to spin because of damage to his left-rear tyre − and Tiago Monteiro (LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler).
No Q2 luck for Nagy as Magnus goes fastest
The 10-minute Q2 session was interrupted by a red flag after just three minutes when Nagy’s Zengő Motorsport Cupra Leon Competición went straight on at Turn 1 and hit the barriers as a result of a suspected technical failure. The Hungarian was unhurt in the impact.
Once the session restarted, Magnus stormed to a time of 1m51.684s to progress to Q3. He was joined by Erhlacher, Berthon, Azcona and Esteban Guerrieri’s Honda in that order.
Ma Qing Hua left it late to record a time and jumped straight up to sixth. He missed out on the Q3 shootout and also handed fellow Lynk & Co driver Urrutia the partially reverse-grid pole position for Race 2, the Uruguayan qualifying in P10. Ma’s effort knocked Muller down to P11.
Rob Huff is set to join Urrutia on the front row for Race 2, having qualified ninth. Local hero Michelisz was seventh fastest but will take a six-place grid drop for Race 1 following his accident with Tassi in Pau last month. Girolami was disappointed to qualify eighth, but will at least start from the second row in Race 2.
Track limits hit Guerrieri, Magnus but there’s no limit to Azcona’s pace
Guerrieri was the first to run in the Q3 shootout. The ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport driver was a little ragged on his lap, setting a time of 1m52.086s. But the time was disallowed for a track limits violation at Turn 11. Azcona was next, the Spaniard working hard to set a benchmark of 1m52.020s.
Berthon was the third to run. The Frenchman was faster than Azcona in the first two sectors, but lost a chunk of time in the final part of the lap and ended up 0.128s slower. “I just lost the front − argh!” he said.
Now Ehrlacher took his turn. But the Lynk & Co was off the pace of both Azcona and Berthon, only managing a time 0.324s off the pacesetting Hyundai. Ehrlacher reported excessive understeer in his Lynk & Co. “It was tough,” he said. “Q3 always is and it’s really hot here and we’ve been in the car for a while. It’s not too bad. We’ve had some difficulties since the beginning of the season, so we are ready to do a good weekend.”
That left Magnus, fastest in Q2, to run last. But the Belgian blew his chance by running wide at Turn 11, to leave Azcona on pole position for Race 1. The final order in the shootout was Azcona, Berthon, Ehrlacher, Guerrieri and Magnus.
Magnus was frustrated by his mistake. “The car was really on the edge to be quick,” he said, “so it was not easy to drive. But I’m really disappointed. I should have finished the lap on a slow pace, which I tried to do to be honest. I didn’t want to take any risks, but the rear stepped out. This would have been a nice pole because starting on pole is important here. I’m disappointed in myself, sorry to the team, but that’s how it is. The pace is better than expected because this is not our track, and I’m happy to be in the top 10 because after Q1 I was not sure I was going to be there.”
Girolami remains the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader heading into Sunday’s races. However, the Argentine’s advantage over Spaniard Azcona has been trimmed to two points. Guerrieri is third, three points behind Azcona.
Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2022 WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup take place on June 12 as follows:
Race 1: 11h20 (30 minutes + 1 lap)
Race 1 podium: 12h00 approx.
Race 2: 16h45 (25 minutes + 1 lap)
Race 2 podium: 17h20 approx.
All timings CET, provisional and subject to change