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Vila Real WTCC: Norbert Michelisz takes dominant pole in qualifying

Norbert Michelisz

Honda's Norbert Michelisz marched to a dominant pole for Sunday's main World Touring Car Championship race in Vila Real with a series qualifying lap record around the Portuguese street circuit.

Michelisz had shared fastest times with Rob Huff in Saturday's earlier practice sessions, but the factory Honda Civics proved to be a cut above the opposition in qualifying.

Hungarian Michelisz set fastest times in all three sectors on his Q3 shootout lap, recording a 1m55.846s to claim pole by 0.684 seconds.

That was ultimately ahead of Munnich Motorsport driver Huff, with Michelisz's team-mate Tiago Monteiro wrecking his chances of a front row start with a lurid slide on the brakes into the final Turn 26 roundabout.

That left the early qualifying pacesetter with the fourth-best time at his home circuit.

While Huff couldn't match the ultimate pace of the Civics, his independent Citroen C-Elysee was well clear of the leading Volvo S60 Polestar of Thed Bjork who qualified third with a 1m56.919s.

Bjork's team-mate and championship leader Nicky Catsburg will start Sunday's main race from fifth, but did not set a time in the shootout after slowing just before the start of his flying lap.

Catsburg, who complained of a vibration issue, was asked by his Volvo team to attempt a lap but replied: "No, I don't want to take the risk."

The top five drivers were well clear of the chasing pack in making the cut for Q3, with Tom Chilton some six tenths shy of Catsburg's pace in the second part of qualifying.

Chilton jumped his Sebastien Loeb Racing team-mate Mehdi Bennani in the order after an improvement on his final lap in Q2, with the pair sixth and seventh respectively.

Esteban Guerrieri qualified his Campos Racing Chevrolet Cruze eighth ahead of the third S60 Polestar of Nestor Girolami, who endured a tumultuous first part of qualifying, with hasty repairs made to his car in first practice to seal his bonnet, but scraped through to the second session.

Ryo Michigami will start a World Touring Car Championship race from pole for the first time after qualifying 10th.

The Japanese driver beat John Filippi and Yann Ehrlacher to the position in Q2 despite having his fastest lap time deleted, and as a result will start Sunday's opening reversed-grid race from the front.

There were no major casualties in the first part of qualifying - paused for 25 minutes for track and barrier repairs - with RC Motorsport drivers Kevin Gleason and WTCC debutant Manuel Fernandez, plus the Zengo Motorsport Civics of Aurelien Panis and Daniel Nagy eliminated.

Tom Coronel had already been ruled out of the session - and the remainder of the weekend - after a hefty crash involving a fire truck in first practice.

Volvo Vila Real WTCC MAC3

VOLVO BEATS HOBBLED HONDA IN MAC3

Volvo claimed another victory in the MAC3 time trial, as both manufacturers' runs were affected by slow cars.

Led by Bjork, Volvo's trio completed a two-lap combined time of 4m05.355s that was 3.992s faster than Honda's.

Catsburg hung off the back of the train, but carried his car - which still appeared to be hobbled after qualifying - across the line comfortably enough.

Honda's effort, meanwhile, was thwarted by Monteiro suffering a suspected broken damper.

Michelisz and Michigami leapt away at the start of the manufacturer's run, but the pair appeared to back off towards the end of their first lap and kept Monteiro in tow thereafter, with the time-setting third car required to finish within 15 seconds of the first one in order to score manufacturer points.

RACE ONE STARTING GRID:

PosDriverTeamCar
1Ryo MichigamiHonda Racing Team JASHonda
2Nestor GirolamiPolestar Cyan RacingVolvo
3Esteban GuerrieriCampos RacingChevrolet
4Mehdi BennaniSebastien Loeb RacingCitroen
5Tom ChiltonSebastien Loeb RacingCitroen
6Nicky CatsburgPolestar Cyan RacingVolvo
7Tiago MonteiroHonda Racing Team JASHonda
8Thed BjorkPolestar Cyan RacingVolvo
9Rob HuffMunnich MotorsportCitroen
10Norbert MicheliszHonda Racing Team JASHonda
11John FilippiSebastien Loeb RacingCitroen
12Yann EhrlacherRC MotorsportLada
13Kevin GleasonRC MotorsportLada
14Manuel FernandesRC MotorsportLada
15Aurelien PanisZengo MotorsportHonda
16Daniel NagyZengo MotorsportHonda

RACE TWO STARTING GRID:

PosDriverTeamCarTimeGap
1Norbert MicheliszHonda Racing Team JASHonda1m55.846s-
2Rob HuffMunnich MotorsportCitroen1m56.530s0.684s
3Thed BjorkPolestar Cyan RacingVolvo1m56.919s1.073s
4Tiago MonteiroHonda Racing Team JASHonda1m58.940s3.094s
5Nicky CatsburgPolestar Cyan RacingVolvo--
6Tom ChiltonSebastien Loeb RacingCitroen1m57.765s-
7Mehdi BennaniSebastien Loeb RacingCitroen1m57.915s-
8Esteban GuerrieriCampos RacingChevrolet1m58.364s-
9Nestor GirolamiPolestar Cyan RacingVolvo1m58.447s-
10Ryo MichigamiHonda Racing Team JASHonda1m58.599s-
11John FilippiSebastien Loeb RacingCitroen1m58.967s-
12Yann EhrlacherRC MotorsportLada1m59.287s-
13Manuel FernandesRC MotorsportLada2m00.567s-
14Aurelien PanisZengo MotorsportHonda2m00.937s-
15Daniel NagyZengo MotorsportHonda2m03.490s-
16Kevin GleasonRC MotorsportLada2m00.410s-

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