Nicky Catsburg has claimed an emphatic first FIA World Touring Car Championship pole for himself and LADA as the Russian make dominated a wet qualifying for WTCC ROSNEFT Race of Russia. His closest rivals were team-mates Gabriele Tarquini and Hugo Valente, who completed a memorable 1-2-3 for LADA at Moscow Raceway, much to the delight of the home fans.
Catsburg, who became the first Dutch driver to take pole in the WTCC, was the class of the field throughout qualifying in the wet conditions, leading both Q1 and Q2 before claiming the DHL top spot by 1.438 seconds in the Q3 shootout.
“I’m absolutely amazed,” said Catsburg. “In Free Practice 2 it was wet and I was the slowest of the three LADA drivers and I was struggling, hoping for it to be dry. But I spoke to Gabriele, I followed his advice, we made some set-up changes and it was all fine. I don’t know why we were so fast but it shows the team is doing some good steps forward and every race we are improving. I’m just super-happy we did a 1-2-3 here in Russia in front of our home fans.”
The biggest challenge to LADA came from British privateer James Thompson, who secured fourth on the grid on his third appearance of the season in the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet Cruze. He was also the leading WTCC Trophy contender.
Honda’s Norbert Michelisz rounded out the Q3 participants, as championship leader José María López was made to settle for sixth in his factory Citroën. Tom Coronel was seventh ahead of Yvan Muller, Mehdi Bennani and Tiago Monteiro, who will start Sunday’s Opening Race on the reverse-grid pole for Honda.
Rob Huff and Tom Chilton made it through to Q2 but Polestar Cyan Racing pair Thed Björk and Fredrik Ekblom were both eliminated in Qualifying Q1, as were Grégoire Demoustier, John Filippi and Ferenc Ficza. Sunday’s Opening Race covers 16 laps from 12h15 local time. The 17-lap Main Race follows at 13h30.