WTCR Second Qualifying flash: Tassi and Monteiro one-two for KCMG
Attila Tassi scored his first DHL Pole Position in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO as the Hungarian and his local hero team-mate Tiago Monteiro clinched a KCMG one-two at WTCR Race of Portugal in Vila Real.
Tassi, who topped both Q1 and Q2, ran last in the Q3 top five shootout and set a lap of 1m59.808s to beat Monteiro’s mark by just 0.141s. That means the two KCMG Honda Civic Type R TCRs are set to lock out the front row for Race 3.
“It’s good for us Hungarians,” said Tassi, following countryman Norbert Michelisz’s DHL Pole Position and Race 1 win yesterday. “Now I hope I can do the same as Norbi in the race. I brushed the wall a little bit in Q2 and my lap in Q3 was not perfect, but I’m happy. Now I hope I get a better start that Tiago!”
For Monteiro, the performance marked a significant achievement during his comeback year from injury, which has not gone smoothly so far. “This was the right timing,” he said. “We’ve had many tough months, but we’ve worked hard for solutions and to get a one-two here is crazy. This track is so challenging, so it’s really special. I’m happy for Attila, for me and for the team.”
A hectic flurry of late improvements as the track got quicker marked a great climax to an intense 30-minute Q1 session. At the flag, Tassi pulled out a great lap to top the times, from Alfa Romeo-powered pair Kevin Ceccon and Ma Qinghua, local hero Monteiro and WTCR / OSCARO points leader Esteban Guerrieri – and with only the top 12 progressing to Q2, a number of potential frontrunners found themselves bumped out.
As Jean-Karl Vernay did just enough by going P12, fellow Audi driver Frédéric Vervisch was eliminated, as were Johan Kristoffersson, Thed Björk and most surprisingly Race 1 winner Michelisz, who will now be hard pressed to take the points lead from title rival Guerrieri this weekend. “I was a bit unlucky on my last lap and caught a few cars,” said the Hungarian, who had cut his Argentine rival’s title advantage to 15 points yesterday. “But to be honest, the pace from yesterday just wasn’t there. I don’t know why.”
Fellow BRC Hyundai driver Augusto Farfus, third in Race 1 on Saturday, was also out of luck this time, hitting a barrier hard with the front-right corner of his i30 N TCR. The Brazilian nursed his badly damaged car back to the pits, but was ruled out for the rest of qualifying. “My mistake, not much to say,” he said. “I was too fast and ended up in the wall. I don’t know if we had the pace to take pole, but we could have done much better.” Nicky Catsburg, who was seventh fastest, was the only BRC Hyundai to progress.
The top 12 continued into the 15-minute Q2 session to compete for a place in the Q3 top-five shootout. Tassi once again set the early pace, but there was drama with eight minutes left on the clock when Ceccon crashed his Alfa Romeo heavily, inflicting severe damage on his Team Mulsanne entry. The incident forced a red flag interruption and a delay as barriers were repaired.
After the restart, Tassi held on to his fastest time, with Yvan Muller, Monteiro, Rob Huff and Race 1 runner-up Yann Erhlacher joining him for the shootout.
Qualifying in the crucial P10 was Ma, who is therefore set to start from the DHL Pole Position for the reverse-grid Race 2. He will be joined on the front row by Guerrieri, who could only go ninth fastest, but is now in a good position to add to his WTCR / OSCARO #RoadToMalaysia points lead.
Tassi had the honour of choosing when he should run in the one-at-a-time shootout, and picked to go last. SLR VW Motorsport’s Huff was the first to run in his Golf GTI TCR. The Briton, who claimed the DHL Pole Position for Race 1 at Vila Real in 2018, set a benchmark for his rivals of 2m00.424s.
Ehrlacher was the next to go in his Lynk & Co, the Frenchman proving comfortably quicker than Huff by 0.302s.
Now it was crowd favourite Monteiro to run. The Portuguese, who missed a full season of racing last year during his recovery from serious injury, revelled in his chance to shine at his home circuit and dipped below the two-minute mark to go fastest by just 0.173s.
Two to go. Muller was next in his Lynk & Co, but the four-time World Touring Car champion couldn’t hook together a time fast enough to challenge the front row and complained of a “big vibration”.
That left Tassi to shoot for the DHL Pole Position for Race 3. The Honda driver was fastest of the five in sectors one and three to go fastest and claim a historic first-place start for his Hong Kong team, with Monteiro completing a KCMG one-two. Tassi, 20, becomes WTCR / OSCARO’s youngest pole-sitter.
Lynk & Co-powered duo Ehrlacher and his uncle Muller were third and fourth, with Huff fifth.
Race 2 at WTCR Race of Portugal is scheduled to begin at 15h30 local time, with Race 3 due to follow at 17h00.