Norbert Michelisz has made the perfect start to his bid to win the FIA World Touring Car Championship with the fastest time in Free Practice 1 at WTCC Race of Qatar.
The Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team driver outgunned Rob Huff by 0.211s with a final-lap charge to boost his earlier advantage of 0.089s.
“It’s a decent start but I was struggling with overall grip,” said Hungarian Michelisz. “I expected the circuit to be ‘green’ but it was a bit less grip than I expected to be honest. In the end it’s the same as always, everybody has the same issues with grip but it’s always nice to end up in the front. But I don’t think we should read too much into this because we still need to improve the set-up. It’s nice to be P1 and I hope we can continue like this through the event.”
Polestar Cyan Racing’s Thed Björk, 6.5 points in front of Michelisz in the title chase, was 0.320s behind in third. Nicky Catsburg was fourth with four-time champion Yvan Muller fifth and 0.771s slower than Michelisz on his return to the WTCC in a factory Volvo.
Tom Chilton lost significant track time after a brush with a tyre barrier left his Citroën with front-end damage and a lengthy repair job for his Sébastien Loeb Racing team, while Esteban Guerrieri’s session was curtailed by an oil leak in his Honda. The Argentine nevertheless ended up as the best Losail International Circuit rookie in sixth positon for the factory Honda team.
Dániel Nagy limped into the pits with a technical issue. Kris Richard stopped on track when his Campos Racing Chevrolet ground to a halt and had to be pushed into the pits by trackside marshals during a red flag period. Free Practice 2 gets underway at 21h15 local time.