WTCC » 4 August 2013
Argentina: Unstoppable Muller clinches sixth pole
Yvan Muller will once again be the man to beat in race one, after he took another dominant pole in Argentina ahead of RML team mate Tom Chilton.
Yvan Muller has been making a bit of a habit of taking pole during the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship, and on Saturday he notched up his sixth pole position in the first eight rounds of the season with a best lap of 1:47.920s at the 13-turn, 2.986-mile Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina.
The Frenchman had looked at ease throughout the session in his RML Chevrolet Cruze, going on to take pole position by half a second from his team mate Tom Chilton even though he had been held up by another Chevrolet - that of Pepe Oriola - in the process. Chilton did all that he could to get close to Muller, but he was himself held up by a line of slowing cars all vying for a slipstream and he also made a mistake of his own exiting of the last corner, which means that once again second will just have to do for the former Ford driver.
That slipstreaming incident subsequently became a focus of post-race stewards scrutiny, with seven drivers summoned to account for themselves. As well as Muller, Chilton and Oriola, Alex MacDowall, James Nash, Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro were all summoned. However, the stewards eventually decided that there were no grounds to issue penalties, and noted that the explanations given by the drivers would be used to determine ways in which similar incidents can be avoided in future.
After the all-Chevy front row, the second row was made up of two Hondas after Zengo Motorsport's Norbet Michelisz gained the upper hand from the Castrol JAS Honda of Gabriele Tarquini, who will be looking to challenge for at least a podium from fourth spot on the grid.
After the Honda interlude, two more Chevrolets duked it out on the third row. Tuenti Racing's Pepe Oriola held off top independent qualifier Alex MacDowall and the two will start from fifth and sixth respectively. After a dismal couple of races for the Bamboo Engineering youngster, MacDowall will be happy to be up near the sharp end again.
Tiago Monteiro was also having a better time of it, on track at least, as he posted the seventh best time of the qualifying session. Unfortunately the Portuguese driver needed an engine change earlier in the day which means he will actually start from the back of the grid for race 1, although at least his qualifying pace suggests that Sunday might see him moving forward and in contention for a solid result.
Monteiro's grid drop means that James Nash is promoted to seventh spot and will now share the fourth row with his Yokohama trophy rival Michel Nykjaer, who had an unremarkable drive to ninth, although the season to date has demonstrated that his race pace is usually stronger than qualifying.
Local boy 'Little Jo' Jose Maria Lopez took top BMW honours in tenth plac eon the timesheets in his Wiechers Sport car, which means that he also takes pole position for race two under the usual grid reshuffle rules. That will make him the first South American racer to take P1 in the series since Augusto Farfus did so in Germany 2010, and gives him a chance of becoming the first WTCC driver in the championship's history to win on his maiden appearance.
"I am very pleased, because for a rookie it is not easy to be competitive straight away in this championship against the best touring car drivers," he said afterwards. "Starting from pole in race 2 is fantastic, especially because the BMW is better than the other cars from a standing start. Now I have to be very careful in the first race, in order to avoid problems and save the car for the second."
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