WTCR First Qualifying flash: Catsburg beats Michelisz to DHL pole by 0.028s
Nicky Catsburg left it until the closing moments of First Qualifying to snatch the DHL Pole Position from Norbert Michelisz with a “mega lap” as Ma Qinghua took third at WTCR Race of Slovakia.
Driving a Hyundai i30 N for BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team, Catsburg set a best time of 2m09.498s to edge fellow Hyundai racer Michelisz by 0.028s. It was the Dutchman’s first DHL Pole Position and came on the back of him going quickest in Free Practice 2.
“It took me a couple of tries to finally really nail it and it worked out,” said Catsburg. “FP2 was already pretty good but you never know in practice who does what. Now finally it came together and I’m mega-happy. I struggled a bit at the first two events but I have a really good feeling now.”
After setting the qualifying pace at the Hungaroring last month, Michelisz had to settle for second place having topped the time sheets for the bulk of the 30-minute session. “It was a good lap but Nicky did a fantastic job and big congrats to him,” said Hungarian Michelisz. “I was following him and he did a mega lap and deserved to be on pole. But he can have P2 in the race!”
Chinese Ma was 0.409s down in third in a Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR with Daniel Haglöf on form again in his PWR Racing CUPRA, the Swede going fourth quickest. “We didn’t have chance to do any testing before the season, Barcelona was just a shakedown and we did not have much data,” said Ma. “It’s also a new team and new car for me so it’s been a bit of a rush. But we’ve learned a lot and collected a lot of positive things. It seems to work.”
Tom Coronel continued his strong practice form in fifth in his Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing entry as Kevin Ceccon (Team Mulsanne) and Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport’s Jean-Karl Vernay took seventh and eighth positions respectively. Esteban Guerrieri was ninth and the best of the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda racers followed by Frédéric Vervisch (Comtoyou Team Audi Sport), SLR VW Motorsport’s Mehdi Bennani and title leader Néstor Girolami.
Aurélien Panis was P12, Gabriele Tarquini P13 and Mikel Azcona P14 with Benjamin Leuchter, Niels Langeveld and Gordon Shedden next. Yvan Muller was the fastest of the Lynk & Co 03 TCR drivers, the Frenchman’s Cyan Racing team admitting to a lack of pace. Augusto Farfus and Luca Engstler, the wildcard racer from TCR Europe, completed the top 20. Unable to string together a meaningful qualifying lap, Tarquini now faces the prospect of a five-place grid penalty for Race 1, the inaugural WTCR / OSCARO title-winner’s punishment for two driving incidents in Hungary.
Second Qualifying is up next at 16h40 local time today. Race 1 at WTCR Race of Slovakia is due to get underway at 10h45 on Sunday 12 May.