Frédéric Vervisch put in a fantastic final charge in WTCR Race of Spain qualifying − described as a ‘golden lap’ by his team − to bump Thed Björk from the Race 2 pole position at a roasting hot MotorLand Aragón Saturday afternoon.
The Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS 3 LMS driver was the last to run in the Q3 top-five shootout and did just enough to edge Björk’s Cyan Performance Lynk & Co − by 0.021s.
“For me it was a really good lap,” said Vervisch. “We put it together in the right moment. It’s been a difficult start to the season, but now we are back in the game. The Comtoyou guys have been non-stop. For the race it will be difficult but we have the pace for pole so we have the speed to win. We have the pace to score many points.”
Trouble for Tassi as King of WTCR Ehrlacher goes fastest
The opening 20-minute Q1 session was interrupted by a red flag after just five minutes when Attila Tassi − second in the WTCR points standings coming into the weekend − was forced to stop out on the circuit with a technical problem on his ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR.
“We didn’t expect much from this weekend with the extra 70 kilograms [of compensation weight],” said Tassi, Race 2 winner at the preceding WTCR Race of Portugal. “Suddenly my car just switched off. I tried to restart it, but even the guys don’t know yet what the problem was.”
Once the session resumed, a late flurry of improvements shook up the order as the chequered flag flew. Tom Coronel knocked fellow Comtoyou Audi driver from the top spot, before King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher jumped to the top with a time of 2m06.441s, just 0.028s quicker than the Dutchman.
Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Jean-Karl Vernay just made it through to Q2 by setting a time good enough for P11, ahead of local hero Mikel Azcona who also secured his graduation. Those to miss the cut outside the top 12 included Santiago Urrutia in P13 and the other WTCR local hero Jordi Gené in his Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy Cupra. Fellow CUPRA driver Rob Huff also missed out, as did the three remaining Hondas of Esteban Guerrieri (P16), Néstor Girolami (P20) and Tiago Monteiro (P21).
Michelisz quickest but P10 hands Tarquini reverse-grid pole
In the 10-minute Q2 session, Norbert Michelisz qualified for the top five Q3 shootout with the fastest time in his Hyundai − a lap of 2m06.044s. Gilles Magnus was the last to cross the line and jumped from P12 to a superb P2, ahead of fellow Audi driver Vervisch. Vernay made it through in fourth, while Thed Björk was another later improver to go fifth.
Nathanaël Berthon, fastest in the second free practice session, just missed the cut in sixth ahead of Coronel, Ehrlacher and Azcona. The late improvements left Gabriele Tarquini in P10, which means he will start the reverse grid Race 1 from pole position for the second consecutive WTCR weekend. It was Magnus’s late lap that made the difference, pushing Yvan Muller down to P11 ahead of FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title rival Luca Engstler.
Ehrlacher said he was disappointed with the eighth fastest time, although it does leave him on the second row for Race 1. “It was not strategy at all,” the Frenchman said. “This track is really challenging and we don’t have the favourite car. I was driving at 130 per cent but sometimes you miss out on some corners.”
Vervisch back in front with shootout best
Michelisz was the first to run in the Q3 shootout and set a benchmark time of 2m06.380s. Magnus was next. The Belgian was faster than Michelisz in the first sector, but slower in the other three − yet it was still good enough to topple the Hyundai driver by just 0.026s.
Vernay was the third of the five to go, but failed to beat the times of either Magnus and Michelisz. Now Björk lined up in his Lynk & Co. The Swede put in a fantastic lap to be fastest in all but the last sector to jump to the top, 0.164s quicker than Magnus.
Vervisch was the last of the five to complete his lap. The Belgian wasn’t the fastest of all in any of the first three sectors − but put in a great burst of speed in the fourth to take pole position, pushing Björk off the top. That left the final order as Vervisch, Björk, Magnus, Michelisz and Vernay.
Björk wasn’t too disappointed after such a competitive qualifying run. “I feel so good in the car,” he said. “It’s been a rough start to the season. He beat me by a tiny bit.”
Magnus said he was happy to be third, especially with his fellow Audi driver Vervisch on the Race 2 pole. “To be standing here is a positive thing,” he said. “It’s a track I like, we’ve had a lot of mileage here and tomorrow will be a good day, I hope.”
Michelisz said: “We have to be realistic. I got the best slipstream of my life in Q2, but this is where we are. We did not expect to beat the Audis here. The target tomorrow is to grab some points.”
Vernay said: “It was a good session because today has been pretty tough for me. But in the end I did a good qualifying to be in the top five and score some more points.”