Ningbo, Qual.: Girolami’s first pole position
Norbert Michelisz in second
Nestor Girolami claimed his first DHL Pole Position in the FIA World Touring Car Championship at the end of an entertaining qualifying session for FIA WTCC Race of China at the new Ningbo International circuit on Saturday afternoon.
The Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo driver edged out the Castrol Honda WTC Team Civic of Norbert Michelisz in the top five shoot-out to claim the top spot for the main race on Sunday at the 4.015-kilometre track.
“Wow, finally,” said a delighted Girolami. “The team did a fantastic job. Two days ago we were testing to sort my problem, the famous vibration that has finally gone. I’m so happy, it’s nice for my confidence. I am here to fight, to help my team-mates and fight for Volvo for the championship.”
Polestar team-mate Thed Björk set the pace on a rapidly drying track in the Q1 session, from Girolami, Rob Huff, Michelisz and Gabriele Tarquini. With the top 12 progressing to Q2, the first session caught a couple of big scalps who were knocked out at the first stage. Mehdi Bennani in his Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée WTCC complained of set-up problems to explain his lack of pace, while Dutchman Tom Coronel, Daniel Nagy and returning WTCC racer Filipe de Souza also missed the cut.
Tarquini was the star of the crucial eight-minute Q2 session that decides both the top five for the Q3 shoot-out and the starting order for the reverse-grid first race, the Italian putting in a flier on his last lap to jump to the top of the times. He was joined in the shoot-out by Girolami, Michelisz, Björk and Huff.
Tom Chilton, Esteban Guerrieri, Nicky Catsburg and John Filippi all missed the cut, while Yann Ehrlacher was 10th – handing him the DHL Pole Position for Race 1 on Sunday.
Huff was the first to go in the top five shoot-out, but his lap was immediatelt beaten by Björk, who was 0.3s quicker than the British driver. Then Michelisz lowered the benchmark further on his run, by 0.2s.
Conditions appeared to be improving as Girolami then jumped to the top on his run, setting a time of 1m58.049s to go 0.3s faster than Girolami. That left just Tarquini to go. Could the WTCC legend snatch a famous pole position on his return to the series?
The answer was no. Tarquini had a scrappy, if entertaining, lap which included a huge slide on the edge of the grass. The moment would ensure he would qualify fifth.
Behind Girolami and Michelisz, Björk and Huff will start the main race on the second row.
The first round of WTCC Race of China takes place on Sunday at 14.30pm local time.
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