WTCR Second Qualifying flash: Catsburg takes double DHL pole
Nicky Catsburg has claimed the DHL Pole Position twice in the space of three hours following another sensational lap in Slovakia where the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO is taking place this weekend.
And in a repeat of First Qualifying, Norbert Michelisz was second quickest in another Hyundai i30 N TCR with Ma Qinghua third in his Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR.
Fastest in Second Qualifying Q1, Dutchman Catsburg, part of the BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team, then earned the right to choose his starting position for the five-car pole position shootout by setting the pace in Qualifying Q2. That meant the track was at its driest when he took to the 5.922-kilometre lap following a downpour between First and Second Qualifying.
“For sure I got a little bit lucky being able to choose going out last when the track was obviously drier than when Norbi did his lap,” said Catsburg, who has earned a total of 10 WTCR / OSCARO points for his efforts today. “He did a great job and it’s nice for the team to have a one-two. I’m super-happy but it won’t be easy starting Race 2 from P10 although it might rain so let’s see.”
Daniel Haglöf (PWR Racing CUPRA TCR) was fourth for the second session running, ending the three-phase contest as the top Slovakia Ring rookie. Esteban Guerrieri also made it through to the deciding Q3 in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda but had to settle for fifth spot.
Kevin Ceccon was sixth with Niels Langeveld a WTCR / OSCARO career-best seventh. Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing’s Aurélien Panis, title leader Néstor Girolami and Rob Huff completed the top 10 with Huff taking the reverse-grid pole for Race 2 in his Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR.
Qualifying Q1: Catsburg stakes his claim
A damp but drying track provided the early challenge – and plenty of action as five drivers took their turn to top the order in the closing two minutes. Nicky Catsburg came out on top in the end but only after Niels Langeveld, Norbert Michelisz, Aurélien Panis and Esteban Guerrieri had all run at the front.
The conditions caught out several drivers with Langeveld, Jean-Karl Vernay, Tiago Monteiro and Tom Coronel all going off-track. Coronel’s delay meant he wasn’t classified in the final order. Andy Priaulx also ran through the gravel following an incident involving Daniel Haglöf.
Benjamin Leuchter was a season-best fourth in the opening knockout session with Langeveld also progressing for the first time this season. Mikel Azcona was the first driver to miss out on a Q2 run, as were wildcard racer Luca Engstler, Frédéric Vervisch, Gabriele Tarquini, Augusto Farfus, Mehdi Bennani, Vernay and Yvan Muller, who completed the top 20.
Attila Tassi, Gordon Shedden, Priaulx, Monteiro, Ehrlacher and Johan Kristoffersson were the other drivers eliminated at the Q1 stage with Kristoffersson left stranded on track with his Volkswagen Golf stuck in fifth gear.
Q2: Huff lands the crucial P10
Rob Huff praised his SLR Volkswagen mechanics for the part they played in helping to transform his fortunes. After completing Free Practice 2 in P26, Huff made it through to Q2 where he finished P10 to claim the DHL Pole Position for the reverse-grid Race 2.
“Every time we have a problem SLR Volkswagen sort it out for me,” said a delighted Huff. “We have been struggling but hopefully we can try and make something on Sunday with this result.”
While Huff celebrated P10, Nicky Catsburg, Esteban Guerrieri, Ma Qinghua, Daniel Haglöf and Norbert Michelisz progressed to Q3 in that order as Kevin Ceccon, Niels Langeveld, Aurélien Panis and Néstor Girolami went no further in positions sixth to ninth respectively. Thed Björk was the sole Lynk & Co-powered driver to progress to Q2 but ended up P11. Benjamin Leuchter held P10 for several minutes only to slip back to P12 in the final seconds as Huff claimed the place.
Q3: Catsburg first from last
Nicky Catsburg was the last of the final five to set his lap but the BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team driver held his never to snatch the DHL Pole Position from Norbert Michelisz – who was first on track – by 0.107s. Ma Qinghua was third with Daniel Haglöf fourth and Esteban Guerrieri fifth.
EWC riders watch the action
Riders from the FIM Endurance World Championship, including Randy de Puniet and pole-sitter Broc Parkes, took time out of their preparations for Saturday’s 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring to watch the WTCR / OSCARO qualifying action. The two series from Eurosport Events are sharing the billing at this double-header event.
Race 1 at WTCR Race of Slovakia is due to get underway at 10h45 on Sunday 12 May. Race 2 is scheduled for 15h15 with Race 3 following at 16h45. Click here for the provisional qualifying times.