29 June 2013
Portugal: Muller secures final European round pole
Runaway points leader heads the grid from a fired-up Tom Chilton and in-form driver Michel Nykjaer.
The man to beat going into race one at Porto for the final European leg of this year's FIA WTCC, Yvan Muller claimed pole position by two-tenths of a second from fellow RML team mate Tom Chilton, despite the session being red-flagged and stopped for a few moments following Pepe Oriola's Q2 crash.
As usual, Muller only showed his cards during Q2 and set a marker of 2min 05.347secs on his first flying lap. The lap would not be beaten. Chilton got close but just couldn't find the perfect lap that his Chevrolet partner found earlier and had to settle for second to lock-out the front row of the grid for race one.
Michel Nykjaer, who is very much the form man and heading the Independents' class in the championship after victory in Moscow, took third from a pacy Norbert Michelisz, who qualified fourth for Zengo Motorsport to take top Honda honours.
James Thompson took Lada's best ever qualifying, a stunning fifth, and is looking in the mood to better his fifth place finish from the team's home race in Moscow last time out. He is joined by Gabriele Tarquini on the third row of the grid.
Reigning champ, Rob Huff, claimed top SEAT distinction in seventh, beating Munnich Motorsport team-mate Marc Basseng into eighth. James Nash will start ninth with the top BMW, with Tom Coronel rounding out the top ten.
Franz Engstler put in a good run and is top independent BMW in eleventh with Oriola only putting in a few laps before his crash to round if the Q2 qualifiers.
Those just missing the cut from Q1 included a BMW quartet from P13-16. That group is headed by Mehdi Bennani, who had a light crash with the tyre barrier and couldn't improve. Stefano d'Aste had the rear of his BMW car stepping out and finds himself 14th, ahead of Asian driver Daryll O'Young and Freddy Barth, who is racing with a still badly injured hand after a first corner crash in Moscow.
Tiago Monteiro will be bitterly disappointed with 17th at his home track, although the crowd should give him motivation to move the Castrol JAS Honda Racing up the grid. Tom Boardman rejoins the circus after two rounds away fixing issues with his STR SEAT, but lines up 18th, with Charles Ng a smidge behind in P19.
Campos Sunred duo, Fernando and Monje, qualified in 20th and 21st, but a surprise elimination from Q1 was Alex MacDowall, who hit the wall. Despite getting back to the pits, he had too much damage to improve from his 22nd starting slot. Nikolay Karamishev struggled with the tough demands of his first street circuit visit but beat the regular backmarker Rene Munnich who is still to find some kind of pace in his SEAT.
Lada's number two driver, Mikhail Kozlovskiy, damaged his car in the second practice session and didn't make it out onto the circuit for qualifying and will start last in 25th.
by Dexter Fielding
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