WTCR Second Qualifying flash: Michelisz secures third DHL Pole Position
Norbert Michelisz stormed to a third DHL Pole Position of the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO season by heading all three sessions in Second Qualifying at WTCR Race of Slovakia this afternoon.
The Hungarian was the last to run in the final Q3 top-five shoot-out and his time of 2m10.340s in his BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR allowed him to bump DG Sport Compétition’s Aurélien Comte down to second by just 0.237s as four customer racing brands featured in the top five.
Michelisz will now be determined to turn his DHL Pole Position into a first win of the WTCR OSCARO season in Race 3 on Sunday morning.
“First of all, I need to say a huge thank you to the team,” he said. “It was not easy from practice yesterday morning, but we always had huge confidence. And from Race 1 we have good information and a good race set-up. But it will be all about the start.”
Michelisz started as he would go on by heading the times at the end of the opening Q1 session with a late effort that knocked Race 1 winner Pepe Oriola from the top. Oriola’s Team OSCARO by Campos Racing team-mate John Filippi was another late improver to jump up to P3. Comte, Yvan Muller and Norbert Nagy completed the top six at this stage.
As ever, the Q1 session left more than half of the field disappointed not to be graduating to the next part of qualifying, with only the top 12 going through. Among the frontrunners to miss the cut was a frustrated Yann Erhlacher, who was an agonising P13 behind Benjamin Lessennes.
Thed Björk also failed to progress in his YMR Hyundai i30 N TCR, down in a lowly P19. “I pushed as hard as I could, but the lap was not there,” shrugged the Swede, who was confused at his lack of pace in comparison to team-mate Muller.
Fabrizio Giovanardi had been hoping for more after his fifth place in Race 1, but the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR was only P15 this time, one place behind his new team-mate Kevin Ceccon.
Michelisz continued to set the pace in the Q2 session that decides who progresses to the final one-at-a-time Q3 top-five shoot-out. The Hungarian would be joined in Q3 by Comte, Filippi, Muller and ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri.
Oriola just fell short of making the cut in P7, ahead of Frédéric Vervisch, Lessennes and a surprisingly off the pace Gabriele Tarquini.
The P10 qualifier was Zengő Motorsport’s Norbert Nagy, which means the Hungarian will start his Cupra TCR on the DHL Pole Position for the reverse-grid Race 2 this evening. Nathanaël Berthon was P11, while Jean-Karl Vernay – second in Race 1 earlier in the day – was a disappointing P12.
Guerrieri was the first to run in Q3, but a scruffy lap from the Argentinian meant he set a target of just 2m11.078s in his Honda. Muller was next and the French touring car legend was expected to beat Guerrieri’s time easily. But a poor final sector left Muller 0.022s shy of the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda’s benchmark.
Filippi now had a good chance to beat both Guerrieri and Muller. But the Frenchman crossed the line with the slowest time of the trio after also making mistakes under the high pressures of Q3.
Comte started his lap knowing that a front-row starting slot for Race 3 was now his for the taking. Sure enough, the PEUGEOT 308 TCR crossed the line 0.501s faster than Guerrieri to guarantee him a place in the top two.
But could Michelisz beat his mark? The Hungarian was just 0.006s down on Comte in sector 1, but was 0.2s up in the second – and kept it going to make sure of the DHL Pole Position. He and Comte will start Race 3 from the front row, with Guerrieri and Muller on row two.
The reverse-grid Race 2 of WTCR Race of Slovakia takes place on Saturday evening at 19h00 local time, with Race 3 taking place on Sunday morning at 11h45 local time.