Vila Real, Qual.: Michelisz beats home hero Monteiro to WTCC pole

Michelisz on top in Portugal

By Franck Drui

24 June 2017 - 18:30
Vila Real, Qual.: Michelisz beats (...)

Norbert Michelisz put in a sensational lap record-breaking charge in FIA World Touring Car Championship qualifying to secure the DHL pole position for the Main Race at WTCC Race of Portugal tomorrow (Sunday).

The Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team driver was the penultimate runner in the top-five Q3 shootout on the challenging Vila Real street circuit after his team-mate and local hero Tiago Monteiro had pipped him to the top spot in Q2. But Michelisz had saved his best for when it really mattered, his time of 1m55.678s proving the fastest of any session this weekend.

Monteiro gave his all to beat the time, but suffered a huge slide coming into the final corner, which the Portuguese put down to a damper issue. He had been behind on the split times anyway, but the moment – which he just held with spectacular skill – left him with only the fourth best time of the top five when a factory Honda front-row lock-out had looked on the cards.

Michelisz was delighted with his performance, particularly as he has felt ill all week. “I tried to collect all my energy for that run,” said the Hungarian, who was also on pole at the Nürburgring Nordschleife last month. “I was not feeling good during qualifying. My stomach was not good. Anyway, I’m really happy for the team. It’s an important pole position and I’m focused on tomorrow.”

Tomorrow’s pair of races, which will be broadcast live around the globe, will make world championship motor racing history when the ‘joker’ lap is used for the first time to spice up the on-track action. “For sure it will change things, but having the fastest car makes it a bit easier with strategy, because you really have more possibilities,” Michelisz explained. “Because with the tight championship we have every point can make a difference in the end and with the ‘joker’ lap I think we have a possibility to finish a little bit further up the order in the Opening Race.”

Monteiro’s moment ensured Rob Huff will start the Main Race from the front row beside the pole man in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, the former world champion topping the WTCC Trophy order in the process. Thed Björk will join Monteiro on row two, with WTCC points leader Nicky Catsburg down in fifth. The Polestar Cyan Racing driver aborted his shootout lap, complaining about “something broken” on the front of his Volvo S60 Polestar. With Monteiro scoring two qualifying bonus points to Catsburg’s one, Monteiro will start his home round of the WTCC one point behind in his Dutch rival in the title fight.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Ryo Michigami will start the Opening Race from pole after he ended Qualifying Q2 in the all-important P10 in his works Civic. Tom Chilton just missed out on a slot in Q3 for Sébastien Loeb Racing ending up sixth, one place ahead of team-mate Mehdi Bennani. Esteban Guerrieri was eighth for Campos Racing with fellow Argentine Néstor Girolami ninth and joining Michigami on the front row for the the Opening Race in his Polestar Cyan Racing entry.

French youngsters John Filippi and Yann Ehrlacher made it through to Q2 and were P11 and P12 fastest respectively. Kevin Gleason, WTCC rookie Manuel Fernandes, Aurélien Panis and Dániel Nagy were eliminated at the Qualifying Q1 stage, while Tom Coronel was unable to start the session due to damage sustained to his car when he crashed in Free Practice 1 this morning. With his ROAL Motorsport entry beyond repair onsite, Coronel will take no further in the event.

Sunday’s Opening Race is scheduled for 16h30 local time over a distance of 11 laps. The Main Race is due to begin at 17h45 and runs for two laps longer. Both races will be broadcast live around the world and drivers must take the alternative route in both contests from lap three onwards.



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