*Hyundai-powered Hungarian boosts WTCR title bid with DHL top spot as rivals struggle *Fellow title contenders Guerrieri P10, Muller P16, Björk P28 in sizzling Sepang qualifying *Panis charges to career-best second, Girolami completes top three
FIA WTCR Race of Malaysia: First Qualifying report*
WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO 2019
Deciding rounds 28-30 of 30, Sepang International Circuit, 12-15 December
Norbert Michelisz claimed the DHL Pole Position for the first race of the Malaysia super-finale weekend, as his three WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO title rivals struggled for speed in Sepang.
The BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse driver, who was fastest in the opening practice session this morning, set a best time of 2m13.748, which was nearly four-tenths of a second quicker than the Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA of Aurélien Panis, while ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda driver Nestor Girolami rounded out the top three.
“I was quite happy with the car and my performance,” said Michelisz. “The laps were some of the best of my career. I started with an aggressive strategy but within the limits. I must thank the team for this today, it was a perfect performance. I take the glory, but I think I gained a little bit of time thanks to the slipstream.”
Hungarian Michelisz’s third DHL pole of the season gives him the maximum five points for the First Qualifying session and increases his points margin over ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri from nine to 14 ahead of Race 1 on Sunday.
Michelisz’s closest #RoadToMalaysia title rival endured a frustrating session, ending up P10 and failing to score any qualifying points.
Suffering more than Guerrieri were the title-chasing Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 duo, Yvan Muller and Thed Björk, whose practice pace struggles continued into First Qualifying. Muller was P16, while Björk languished P28 out of 30.
Free Practice 2 pacesetter Mikel Azona was fourth fastest in his PWR Racing Cupra, having been the nearest challenger to Michelisz for the majority of the 30-minute running.
Michelisz’s fellow Hyundai-powered drivers Augusto Farfus, Nicky Catsburg and Gabriele Tarquini follow behind the fifth-placed Audi of Frédéric Vervisch, while the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR of Ma Qinghua was ninth, ahead of Guerrieri.
Niels Langeveld and Kevin Ceccon were P11 and P12 respectively, while Brazilian João Paulo de Oliveira ended up as the fastest wildcard for KC Motorgroup in P13, followed by Tiago Monteiro, Daniel Haglöf and Muller.
Mitchell Cheah was the fastest of the three Malaysian wildcards, a mere 1.6s off pole, such was the close nature of the session. The country's MotoGP star, Hafizh Syahrin, was P29 at the end of his first qualifying session in an international car race, his second of all.
First Qualifying was briefly interrupted by a full course yellow after Sébastien Loeb Racing's Rob Huff dislodged a corner-marking barrier.
Second Qualifying at WTCR Race of Malaysia takes place from 19h30 local time.
*First Qualifying results are provisional, subject to change