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Huff on pole after chaotic qualifying

20 November 2009



Chevrolet's Rob Huff came through a chaotic World Touring Car Championship qualifying session to steal pole for the season finale on the streets of Macau on an afternoon when the title hopes of SEAT duo Gabriele Tarquini and Yvan Muller were hit after they were involved an accident.

Tarquini and Muller both comfortably made it through to the final shoot-out session, but then failed to set a lap time after they got caught up in a crash early on. Muller appeared to lose control of his SEAT on cement dust that had been laid down at Faraway following an earlier crash between James Thompson and Stefano d'Aste. Moments later, Tarquini smashed into him – before the pair were then hit again by Alain Menu.

All three cars were badly damaged in the crash, although the teams have an extra day for repairs with the first of the two FIA WTCC races not taking place until Sunday.

With the SEAT duo out of action, the way was left open for the other title contender Augusto Farfus to take pole position – but he could not quite manage it. Although the Brazilian moved to the top of the timesheets with one minute of qualifying remaining, Huff went even quicker on his final lap to secure pole – shortly before Andy Priaulx secured the second spot.

Huff was overjoyed by the result, especially because the numerous red flags and delays had made it hard for drivers to find their rhythm.

“I've never in my life experienced a qualifying session like this,” he said, “The track was dark at the end, and you couldn't see anything. It was incredible. I've never done a pole on my third lap before, so it is just fantastic for Chevrolet. I'm really pleased.”

Jordi Gene will start behind Farfus in fourth, with Tiago Monteiro fifth and Jorg Muller sixth. Yvan Muller, Tarquini and Menu will fill out the rest of the top ten.

As expected in such a crucial qualifying, the teams hit the track in groups to benefit from slipstreaming. d'Aste was the first to make a mistake, at the Solitude Esses, hitting the wall and leaving his car on the track for the remainder of the session.

Yvan Muller had a spell at the top of the timesheets, while Farfus was sitting tenth before he and Priaulx had a hot lap and the Brazilian took himself to eighth and the Briton to sixth. A final surge by team SEAT saw all five cars into Q2, but Rickard Rydell's car suffered engine problems at the end of session and stopped on the track.

The session then ended in drama as Thompson smashed into the back of d'Aste's stationary car, while Alex Zanardi and Nicola Larini narrowly missed out on Q2 appearances. Tom Coronel was the fastest independent, taking 13th on the grid followed by rival Felix Porteiro, in 14th, and local man Andre Couto, in 16th.

Within five minutes of Q2 getting underway, Tarquini and Muller had crashed too. The pair were in close contact when they encountered oil left from Thompson's earlier smash and were sent spinning. The cars were both too damaged to continue, and Tarquini and Muller joined Thompson in being taken to hospital for a check-up.

Menu was running behind the SEAT duo and also sustained damage. Although the Chevrolet team tried to make the Cruze trackworthy in time, the Swiss veteran could not clock a lap before the chequered flag fell.

Then, as night was falling, Huff completed a lap of 2min 32.141secs that relegated Priaulx and Farfus to second and third, while Gené took fourth ahead of Monteiro and Müller.

Qualifying results remain suspended pending the Data Logging System checks and fuel analysis, results of which will be available tomorrow morning.

Medical examinations for Thompson, Tarquini and Muller all came back clear and the three drivers were discharged, but will need to be checked again by the FIA doctor on Saturday before being cleared for racing on Sunday.


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