Motegi, Qual.: Michelisz claims pole
MAC3 flash: Honda’s home win
Norbert Michelisz will start the FIA World Touring Car Championship Main Race from the DHL pole position at Twin Ring Motegi after topping qualifying at WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan.
The Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team driver was the penultimate runner in the Q3 top five shoot-out after finding himself second best to Polestar Cyan Racing’s Nicky Catsburg in the first two qualifying sessions. But when it counted Michelisz came out on top to gift Honda the DHL Pole Position Award at its home circuit.
But Michelisz wasn’t particularly happy with his lap. “I made two stupid mistakes on my lap because I was trying too hard,” he said. “I needed the perfect lap. But the car was amazing and it was still good enough for the front row. I’m really happy for the team and I’d like to congratulate my team-mates too.”
Catsburg set the pace in Q1 with a fastest time of 2m09.522s ahead of the Hondas of Michelisz and Ryo Michigami. At the other end of the field, two big names failed to break into the top 12 and would not progress into Q2. ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel and ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Rob Huff were surprise exits of the first session and joined Campos Racing debutant Kris Richard, Zsolt David Szabo of Zengő Motorsport and Filipe de Souza of RC Motorsport on the sidelines.
In Q2 Catsburg continued to set the pace, with Michelisz and Michigami finding themselves in his wake once again. The Volvo’s best time of 2m08.411s was an impressive half a second quicker than Michelisz’s lap.
Further back, there was drama in the shuffling of positions to decide who will start the reverse-grid Opening Race from pole position. Daniel Nagy was P10 in the closing stages and looked set to take the honour, only for RC Motorsport’s Kevin Gleason to knock him back to P11. That meant the American claimed his first WTCC reverse-grid pole.
Néstor Girolami was fifth fastest in Q2 for Polestar Cyan Racing, which gave him the honour of running first in the Q3 shoot-out but the Argentine’s charge demoted team-mate Thed Björk and prevented the Swede from challenging for pole in the final phase of qualifying and therefore meant no points for the championship leader. Girolami remained fastest after Honda’s Esteban Guerrieri and Michigami failed to beat his time. But Michelisz blitzed his benchmark on his run, a time of 2m08.890s proving 0.9s faster. It was his sixth WTCC career pole and number 10 for Honda.
Volvo’s hopes for pole position still rested on Catsburg, but the Dutchman made a mistake in sector two and could only set a time good enough for second on the grid for the Main Race.
The Opening Race at WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan will start at 14h15 local time.
MAC3 flash: Honda’s home win
The Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team claimed WTCC MAC3 time trial honours on home soil with a comfortable victory over Polestar Cyan Racing’s trio of Volvos at WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan.
Norbert Michelisz, Esteban Guerrieri and Ryo Michigami set a two-lap target of 4m25.354s around the 4.8km Twin Ring Motegi. But the Volvo S60s had no answer to their effort.
Nicky Catsburg, Néstor Girolami and Thed Björk were off the Honda pace from the beginning. But with a comfortable points lead in the championship standings, they were not about to take any risks. The trio’s two-lap time was 2.5s down on Honda’s threesome.
Guerrieri was especially satisfied with the victory on his first MAC3 appearance with Honda. “Congratulations to the Honda team,” he said. “I’m getting up to pace in the car and there was a good pace set by Norbi [Michelisz] ahead of me. But it’s tough to follow in the spray, it’s difficult to see anything. It will be challenging in the races later on.”
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