Gabriele Tarquini will start the first WTCC race of the 2012 season from pole position after setting the fastest time (1:57.915) in Qualifying this afternoon. In doing so, Tarquini’s SEAT León has ended the string of thirteen successive pole positions by Chevrolet that began in Macau in 2010. Behind the Italian driver on the grid will be the four Chevrolet Cruze cars of Yvan Muller, Robert Huff, Alain Menu and Rickard Rydell with seventh-placed Pepe Oriola the highest of the Yokohama Trophy contenders.
The Chevrolet of Alain Menu was the early pace-setter in the session, but Pepe Oriola sprung a surprise after four laps when his SEAT León went fastest. The Spanish driver’s joy was short-lived, however, when Gabriele Tarquini and Robert Huff both went quicker. Yvan Muller then snatched the second-fastest time, with Alain Menu and the BMW of Norbert Michelisz also going quicker than Oriola before the session was red-flagged when Alberto Cerqui went off at the Parabolica.
The following drivers went through to Q2: Tarquini, Muller, Huff, Michelisz, Menu, Oriola, Dudalko, Coronel, Rydell, D’Aste, MacDowall and Wéber.
Tarquini’s pole-winning time occurred on only his second lap, with the three factory Chevrolet drivers unable to better his performance. Muller (1:57.974), Huff (1:58.106) and Menu (1:58.200) will therefore all start behind the SEAT driver in tomorrow’s first race. The Chevrolet Motorsport Sweden Cruze of Rickard Rydell (1:58.319) and Tom Coronel in a BMW 320 TC (1:58.389) qualified fifth and sixth respectively, with Oriola (1:58.412) heading the Yokohama Trophy entrants in seventh. Alex MacDowall (1:58.507), Aleksei Dudukalo (1:58.649) and Norbert Michelisz (1:58.652) rounded off the top ten, with Stefano D’Aste (1:58.931) eleventh fastest and Gábor Wéber (1:59.348) twelfth.
Thanks to the reversed grid, it will be the BMW 320 TC of Norbert Michelisz that will start Race 2 from pole position.
ETCC – MONJE BEATS FULÍN FOR POLE POSITION
The SUNRED Engineering SEAT León TDi of Fernando Monje will start the first race of the 2012 ETCC from pole position after setting the fastest time early in the thirty-minute Qualifying session. The Krenek Motorsport BMW 320si of Petr Fulín was second fastest, while third quickest during the session was Norway’s Stian Paulsen in a SEAT León Cópa, which was also the fastest of the single-make series entrants.
The Spanish teenager has been quick around Monza since the first test session on Thursday and Monje duly delivered pole position in the diesel-powered SEAT with a time of 2:01.188. For a short while, it appeared the top three would be an all-SEAT affair, but Fulín clearly had other ideas and his time of 2:02.283, although over a second off Monje’s pace, suggests the BMW driver has no intention of letting the Spaniard have things his own way tomorrow, particularly with Monza traditionally being hard on the tyres of front-wheel drive cars.
If pole position was decided early on, third place was anything but. It was only in the dying minutes of the session that Paulsen (2:03.434) snatched third place from one of his rivals in the single-make series, Andreas Pfister (2:03.802). Together with Gabriele Tarquini’s pole position in the first of the WTCC races and Pepe Oriola heading the entrants in the Yokohama Trophy, today has been dominated by SEAT León cars.
The reigning Super Production Champion, Aleksander Tosic in a Honda Civic Type-R, was the faster of the two SP entries in eleventh place on the grid (2:11.937), with the Stewards denying the BMW of Fabio Fabiani permission to start due to a non-conforming fuel tank.
In the hotly-contested S1600 category, it was the Ford Fiesta ST of Germany’s Kevin Krammes that set the fastest time (2:19.111) although Gilles Bruckner (2:19.639) and Ulrike Krafft (2:20.300) will be out to deny Krammes victory in the first ETCC races of the season tomorrow.