CUPRA-powered ace lands maiden WTCR pole position with flying lap in Czech Republic
Zengő Motorsport’s sensational Spaniard beats Michelisz to top spot by 0.091s
Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Ehrlacher goes third as Guerrieri and Vernay progress to Q3
0.7s covers top 18 in Q1, 0.3s covers top 5 in Q3 as Autodrom Most action proves super-tight
Home hero Fulín lands reverse-grid pole at local track
WTCR Race of Czech Republic, Autodrom Most, October 8-10, 2021: Qualifying report
WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup, rounds 9 and 10 of 16
WTCR Race of Czech Republic Qualifying fastest 5:
1 Mikel Azcona (ESP) Zengő Motorsport, CUPRA Leon Competición, 1m38.757s (153.5kph)
2 Norbert Michelisz (HUN) BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, 1m38.848s
3 Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR, 1m38.887s
4 Esteban Guerrieri (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR, 1m52.534s
5 Jean-Karl Vernay (FRA) Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team, 1m39.068s
Reverse-grid pole: Petr Fulín (CZE) Full in Race Academy, CUPRA Leon Competición
Mikel Azcona stormed to pole position for Race 2 at WTCR Race of Czech Republic after setting the fastest time in the qualifying shootout at Autodrom Most.
The Spaniard was the second to run in the Q3 session and his lap of 1m38.757s proved just enough for his Goodyear-equipped Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición to stay on top – by just 0.091s from Norbert Michelisz.
“With 20 kilograms more weight from the last race, to get pole position I’m really happy,” said Azcona. “It was the perfect lap, I have to say. The car felt really good, even with the 20 kilograms, and I felt super-good – even better than at the last race weekend. We’ll see on Sunday but at the moment I feel really good.”
The 20-minute Q1 session was interrupted by red flags with eight minutes left on the clock when Gilles Magnus stopped in sector three in his Comtoyou Team Audi Sport RS 3 LMS. Once the car had been towed back to the pits and the session restarted, Esteban Guerrieri put in a great effort to go fastest in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR from Azcona, Nathanaël Berthon and Néstor Girolami.
The top 12 graduate to Q2 in WTCR qualifying and among those to make the cut included Frédéric Vervisch in P11 after his Comtoyou Team Audi Sport team fitted a new engine to his RS 3 LMS after free practice, and BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse’s Gabriele Tarquini – a late improver to make it through in P12.
Tarquini bumped Rob Huff down to P13 and out of qualifying. Among those to also miss out included Tom Coronel in P14, just ahead of WTCR Race of Hungary race winner Santiago Urrutia. The Uruguayan, who is second in the WTCR points, was confused about his lack of speed in his Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 03 TCR. “I was fast in free practice and I’m usually quick in qualifying,” he said. “It is what it is. I don’t know why, it feels strange.”
Local legend Fulín takes the all-important Q2 P10
In the 10-minute Q2 session Jean-Karl Vernay shot to the top to qualify for Q3 as fastest. The others to join him in the shootout where Azcona, Michelisz, Guerrieri and Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Yann Ehrlacher, with Berthon just missing out in sixth place.
The Lynk & Co 03 TCRs of Thed Björk and Yvan Muller were next, ahead of Girolami − and in P10 was wildcard entry Petr Fulín. That means the local hero will start on pole position for the partially reversed-grid Race 1 on Sunday.
Vernay goes first, Azcona goes fastest in Q3
Vernay was the first to run in the Q3 shootout, the Frenchman hustling his Hyundai over a scruffy lap to record a benchmark time of 1m39.068s. Azcona was next up, the Spaniard proving much quicker by 0.311s.
Guerrieri was the third of the five to take his shot. The Honda driver was faster than Vernay but missed out from toppling Azcona by just 0.133s. “I’m happy with how the day went,” he said. “To be first in Q1 was a surprise because I ended up having one shot at a lap and put it fastest. That was five points and now I have some more in Q3.”
Next was Ehrlacher, the King of WTCR putting in a consistent effort – but not quite enough to snatch pole position. His time was 0.130s down on Azcona – but an incredible 0.003s faster than Guerrieri. “The conditions were difficult with the sun,” he said. ”It was a reasonable lap. Now I’ll focus on the races. We have a whole day to prepare.”
That left Michelisz as the last of the five to take his shot. The Hungarian was fastest overall in the second sector, but he didn’t quite have enough to hit the top. Michelisz had to settle for second and a front-row start for Race 2 alongside pole position winner Azcona. “After going fastest in Free Practice 2 we expected to be in the top five,” he said. “The laps were really good and we found a good balance. I’m happy with P2 – it’s so tight.”
The final order after Q3 was Azcona, Michelisz, Ehrlacher, Guerrieri and Vernay.
Race 1 at WTCR Race of Czech Republic is scheduled over 13 laps and is due to begin at 14h15 local time on Sunday (October 10) with Race 2 following at 17h10 over 15 laps.
TOP 3 DRIVER QUOTES
Mikel Azcona (Zengő Motorsport, CUPRA Leon Competición)
“It was a really good lap, I have to say. I prepared myself very well and the car was working perfectly. The car allows basically meant I had to go really fast, really on the limit on this new track. It’s very special because you can feel a differing level in different corners. It is very tricky for the driver to analysis, to understand everything what is on the floor. So I’m very happy, I was pushing really on the limit and the lap was great. I have to say thank you to my Zengő Motorsport team because they are doing a great job. We started the year really difficultly at the Nürburgring with so many issues, then the second race weekend it was really horrible. At the moment we are in the middle of the season and we are still battling for the title, which is impressive. I’m really happy, it is my first pole position in WTCR. I’m very happy and very proud. I need to use this opportunity on Sunday. I have to say also I’m very comfortable with the car because with 20kg more than the last race weekend we prepared the car perfectly and I feel much better than the last race weekend. It is really good and it make me really comfortable for going to the Sunday races.”
Norbert Michelisz (BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse)
“Most of that is thanks to the team and the car to be honest. We tried to improve from FP1 to FP2, we managed to do that. And then we did another step with the balance. So if you have a car like I had today, I don’t want to say it’s easy but it makes life much easier for a racing car driver. Of course, you have to put the lap together which I fortunately managed to do and I’m very happy with P2, because for me honestly, I know the gap is quite close to Mikel but there was almost nothing left in my quallie lap. So I’m looking forward to the races on Sunday.”
Yann Ehrlacher (Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR)
“It’s a new track for the championship and it’s always challenging to come on a new circuit like this having two free practices to set up the car. It’s not easy to find a good compromise here. It’s a difficult track – short, but difficult, and we can see that the times are really close between each other, so it will make the races really intense. From our side, we just tried to maximise everything in qualifying. Practice was there to set up and learn the track, and then in qualifying, run after run you start to get used a bit more to the track. My Q3 lap was good, almost nothing left even if it wasn’t the perfect lap. But I’m quite pleased to be starting P3, having a good position for both races and a good opportunity to score good points.”