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QUALIFYING REPORT: FIA WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan, 27-29 October 2017
FIA World Touring Car Championship 2017: Rounds 15 and 16 of 20

*Hungarian lands eighth DHL Pole Position Award at Honda’s home track
*Michigami scores career-high fifth overall as Honda celebrates pole number 10
*Catsburg best for Polestar Cyan Racing, Bennani quickest WTCC Trophy contender

Norbert Michelisz will start the Main Race at FIA WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan from the DHL pole position after he set the pace in qualifying at Honda’s home track, Twin Ring Motegi. It was the Hungarian’s eighth pole in the World Touring Car Championship and number 10 for the Japanese manufacturer.

And the success continued for Honda with home hero Ryo Michigami making history with the best qualifying effort by a Japanese driver in the WTCC. By going fifth quickest in the rain-hit session, he beat the previous record of ninth.

Nicky Catsburg was the fastest of the Polestar Cyan Racing trio but a late burst from Néstor Girolami in Qualifying Q2 inadvertently denied team-mate and championship leader Thed Björk a place in the top-five Qualifying Q3 shootout. Meanwhile, Mehdi Bennani hit back from a frustrating WTCC Race of China by setting the pace in the WTCC Trophy for independent racers.

Despite his achievement, Michelisz wasn’t entirely happy with his lap. “I made two stupid mistakes on my lap because I was trying too hard,” he said. “I needed the perfect lap. But the car was amazing and it was still good enough for the front row. I’m really happy for the team and I’d like to congratulate my team-mates too.”

Qualifying recap: Nicky Catsburg set the pace in Q1 with a fastest time of 2m09.522s ahead of the Hondas of Norbert Michelisz and Ryo Michigami. At the other end of the field, two big names failed to break into the top 12 and would not progress into Q2. ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel and ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Rob Huff were surprise exits of the first session and joined Campos Racing debutant Kris Richard – the European Touring Car Cup prize winner on this WTCC debut – Zsolt Dávid Szabó of Zengő Motorsport and RC Motorsport’s Filipe de Souza on the sidelines.

In Q2 Catsburg continued to set the pace, with Michelisz and Michigami finding themselves in his wake once again. The Volvo driver’s best time of 2m08.411s was an impressive half a second quicker than Michelisz’s lap. Further back, there was drama in the shuffling of positions to decide who will start the reverse-grid Opening Race from the top spot. Dániel Nagy was P10 in the closing stages and looked set to take the honour, only for RC’s Kevin Gleason to knock him back to P11. That meant the American claimed his first WTCC reverse-grid pole.

Néstor Girolami, who lost considerable track time in Free Practice 2 with a spin into the gravel, was fifth fastest in Q2 for Polestar Cyan Racing, which gave him the honour of running first in the Q3 shoot-out but the Argentine’s charge demoted Thed Björk and prevented the Swede from challenging for pole in the final phase of qualifying and therefore no points for the championship leader. Girolami remained fastest after Honda’s Esteban Guerrieri, standing in for Tiago Monteiro, and Michigami failed to beat his time. But Michelisz blitzed his benchmark on his run, a time of 2m08.890s – as recorded by TAG Heuer, the WTCC’s Official Timing Partner – proving 0.9s faster.

Volvo Polestar’s hopes for pole position still rested on Catsburg, but the Dutchman made a mistake in sector two and could only set a time good enough for second on the grid for the Main Race.

The on-track action continues later today with the 11-lap Opening Race due to get underway at 14h15 local time followed by the Main Race, which is scheduled for 13 laps, beginning at 15h30.


WTCC Norbert Michelisz-jpg WTCC Ryo Michigami-jpg WTCC Mehdi Bennani-jpg

João Raposo

Telemóvel: +351 961 686 867