Norbert Michelisz played perfectly to his home crowd by claiming a popular DHL Pole Position at WTCR Race of Hungary by winning the top-five qualifying shoot out at the Hungaroring.
The BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse driver just pipped ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri and Cyan Performance Lynk & Co’s Yann Ehrlacher, with a scant 0.040s separating the top three. Michelisz’s team-mate Gabriele Tarquini was fourth, ahead of Race 1 winner Néstor Girolami.
“It was very difficult,” said a delighted Michelisz. “In Q3 I felt the track was getting slower and I thought my time wouldn’t be good enough, but the others were struggling too. Yesterday I was joking with the Hungarian fans that it was difficult to know what to expect, except a pole position. Thankfully, I was wrong.”
Michelisz started as he meant to go on by topping the 20-minute Q1 session, from which the top 12 graduate to Q2. The local hero set his time early, then sat in the pits to watch what his rivals could do. Those who got closest were Girolami and Andy Priaulx, both of whom jumped up the order to second and third respectively in the final minutes.
Those to just make the cut included included Jean-Karl Vernay in P10, Tarquini in P11 and Marrakech Race 3 winner Thed Björk in P12. Björk’s time just pushed out Nicky Catsburg in P13, while others to miss out included Aurélien Panis, who finished fifth in Race 1 but was only P14, and Saturday podium finisher Yvan Muller, who was down in P15.
Why was Muller out of luck? “I have no idea,” he shrugged. “My lap was correct. Okay, the balance wasn’t perfect, but it never is. I need to look at the data.”
From the 12 who graduate to the 10-minute Q2 session, five make the cut for the Q3 one-at-a-time shootout. Ehrlacher set a mark early in the session good enough to stay on top and by the end was joined by Girolami, Tarquini, Michelisz and Guerrieri in the top five as 0.6s covered the 12 drivers, such is the intensity of the competition in WTCR / OSCARO.
PWR Racing’s Mikel Azcona just missed the cut in sixth, ahead of Björk, Augusto Farfus and Daniel Haglöf. In the crucial P10, which decides the DHL Pole Position for the reverse-grid Race 2, was Vernay, who bumped Rob Huff down to P11. Huff, who just out-qualified fellow Briton Priaulx, made an error on his final lap and couldn’t improve, a spectacular sideways moment costing him vital time.
Girolami chose to run first in the Q3 top-five shootout, but it all went wrong for the Honda driver who lost his time for violating track limits. That automatically meant he would qualify fifth fastest.
Next to go was Michelisz, who was warned by his engineer on his out lap to keep within the limits, which has been a theme of the weekend at the Hungaroring. The home hero did indeed keep all four wheels within the white lines and set a benchmark of 1m52.784s.
Now WTCR / OSCARO points leader Guerrieri lined up. The Argentinian was faster than Michelisz in the second and third sectors, but missed out on deposing the Hyundai driver by a scant 0.008s.
Q2 pace-setter Ehrlacher was next up, but the Lynk & Co driver didn’t have the pace to threaten either Michelisz or Guerrieri. Still, it was close: just 0.040s separated the trio.
That left Tarquini as the last to go. Could he spoil the partisan crowd’s morning and knock his team-mate from the top spot? No. He was fastest overall in the second sector, but by the end of the lap only managed a time good enough for fourth and complained of brake problems as well as a few driving errors. That left Michelisz on the DHL Pole Position for Race 3 from Guerrieri and Ehrlacher.
“I’m hoping for a good start and then will use my track knowledge to defend,” said Michelisz, who started from the DHL Pole in 2018 only to lose out in the race to team-mate Tarquini. “I have a good feeling, but we will not be the fastest in the race.”
Guerrieri said he was pleased with his qualifying performance. “Congratulations to Norbi, who deserves this in his home country. I’m pleased for the team, with both cars in the top three. I just need to make a good start.”
Race 2 of WTCR Race of Hungary takes place at 15h30 local time, with Race 3 due to follow at 17h00.
Via FIA WTCR