WTCC Austria 2013: Nykjaer handed pole by mass penalties

A comprehensive rewrite of the starting grid will put NIKA Racing's Michel Nykjaer on pole position for Sunday's WTCC race at Salzburgring.
WTCC Austria 2013: Nykjaer handed pole by mass penalties

Yvan Muller has been stripped of his third WTCC pole position and demoted 12 positions down the grid after the race stewards' office at Salzburgring became one of the busiest places on the planet following qualifying in Austria.

Muller was just one of 12 drivers - more than half the entire field - who were handed penalties following a chaotic end to Q2 earlier in the afternoon.

All 12 of the cars who made it through to the second round of qualifying missed setting a final flying lap after they were too late getting to the line as the chequered flag came out, thanks to a jostling for positions and general backing up of the field into a slow procession that thwarted everyone and left spectators fuming at what they had just seen.

In total, 14 drivers - including all of those in Q2 save for NIKA Racing's Michel Nykjaer - were summoned to the race stewards office and ordered to explain just what had gone on. When the dust finally settled, the stewards were far from impressed by what they had seen and handed out a raft of penalties to 12 of those who had been investigated.

All were told that they had engaged in "unsporting behaviour on the track which damages the image of motorsport in general and in particular the FIA WTCC," with the rulings citing breaches of Appendix L, Chapter 4, Article 2e and Article 151 of the International Sporting Code.

As well as Muller's 12 places demotion for Race 1, Tom Chilton was similarly sanctioned while Rob Huff was penalised 10 places and Alex MacDowall eight. Stefano D'Aste, Hugo Valente and Darryl O'Young were all handed five-place demotions for Race 1.

Norbert Michelisz and Tiago Monteiro also had ten-place penalties for race 1, but those were superseded by additional penalties when it was found that their cars did not conform to regulations (Appendix J, article 236.13.1, Art. 7.1.6) and so both drivers' times were deleted outright and they will have to start from the back of the grid in Race 1.

Gabriele Tarquini's times were also deleted after his Honda Civic failed to conform, and he additionally received a 12-place penalty for Race 2 for unnecessarily slow driving. Pepe Oriola was similarly demoted eight places on the grids of both races, while Tom Coronel goes back ten for the first race and five for the second.

Competitors also received fines: Tarquini and Oriola both have to pay up 6000 euros and Coronel 4000 euros, while Muller, Chilton, McDowall, Monteiro, Michelisz and Valente all lost 3000 euros. There were also 1000 euro fines for Huff, D'Aste, and O'Young.

As the one man in Q2 with a spotless record coming out of the post-qualifying debacle, a likely still-bewildered Michel Nykjaer duly inherited pole position for Race 1. The rest of the starting grid is up in the air until the stewards make the decision on the order in which the various penalties are applied, meaning that the new grid won't be known in full until Sunday.

The two drivers investigated but who escaped any sanctions against them were James Nash - who retains the pole for Race 2 - and Mikhail Kozlovskiy. Among those left out of the coach trip to the stewards office were Mehdi Bennani, Fredy Barth, Franz Engstler and Marc Basseng.

James Thompson, Charles Ng, Rene Munnich and Fernando Monje also missed out on all the fun.

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