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Termas de Rio Hondo WTCC: Volvo's Catsburg takes controversial pole

Nicky Catsburg takes Termas de Rio Hondo WTCC pole 2017

Volvo driver Nicky Catsburg denied Honda's Norbert Michelisz a third-straight World Touring Car Championship main race pole after setting the fastest time in qualifying at Termas de Rio Hondo.

Catsburg was fastest in the first two parts of qualifying and maintained his perfect record with the best time in the Q3 shootout session, but his lap was investigated by stewards after he went wide out of the final corner and across the grass to record his time.

Catsburg was later cleared of any wrongdoing and kept his pole.

He held an advantage of a tenth of a second over Michelisz through the first two sectors of the lap, but doubled that through sector three as he ran out of road on the short run to the start/finish line.

"The start/finish line is very close to the exit of the last corner so I knew I didn't have to make anything and maybe that was the difference," said Catsburg, who claimed his first pole since switching to Volvo for 2017.

While Michelisz missed out on a third pole in a row by 0.184 seconds, his shootout effort was enough to give him a spot on the front row for Sunday's main race ahead of factory Honda team-mate and championship leader Tiago Monteiro and the Campos Racing Chevrolet Cruze of home Argentinian racer Esteban Guerrieri.

Thed Bjork had been on course to snatch third on his lap, but dropped time in the final sector, missed the apex of the penultimate corner and instead ended up fifth.

Nestor Girolami looked as though he might have bumped Volvo team-mate Bjork from Q3 in the final moments of the second session, but the Argentinian was denied a shootout spot at his home venue moments later by a retaliatory improvement from Bjork.

Mehdi Bennani beat Sebastien Loeb Racing team-mate Tom Chilton in their private battle for seventh and eighth, with the pair set to share the fourth row in Sunday's main race.

Ryo Michigami qualified ninth - his best performance in the WTCC - but will start Sunday's opening reversed-grid race from the back of the grid after his Honda team changed his engine between second practice and qualifying.

That means Chilton will instead start the opening race from the outside of the front row in his C-Elysee, behind the polesitting RC Motorsport Lada of Yann Ehrlacher - who qualified 10th.

Yann Ehrlacher RC Lada Termas de Rio Hondo WTCC 2017

Late improvements by Tom Coronel and Girolami after the chequered flag had fallen meant Rob Huff was eliminated in Q1.

Huff had set a personal best in the first sector of his final flying lap but while he was able to improve his overall best, he flatspotted a tyre on that run and was short of time for another attack once he had returned to the pits.

"We went into qualifying with brand new brakes," said Huff, who qualified 13th.

"I've been complaining all day, had no bite, and then we put new ones on for qualifying and we had huge bite.

"I braked in the normal place on the back straight, thought it was safe and just locked the front axle.

"It just flatspotted the tyre and we didn't have time to come in and put new tyres on."

VOLVO TAKES MAC3 WIN

Volvo cruised to another victory in the MAC3 time trial, with a winning margin of 15.602s over the Honda trio.

Catsburg led the train of S60 Polestars throughout Volvo's run as it blew away Honda's effort, with Michigami slow off the line and seemingly hampered by a problem that forced team-mates Monteiro and Michelisz to wait for him.

Volvo MAC3 Termas de Rio Hondo WTCC 2017

RACE ONE STARTING GRID:

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

RACE TWO STARTING GRID:

PosDriverTeamCarTimeGap
1Nicky CatsburgPolestar Cyan RacingVolvo1m43.088s-
2Norbert MicheliszHonda Racing Team JASHonda1m43.272s0.184s
3Tiago MonteiroHonda Racing Team JASHonda1m43.479s0.391s
4Esteban GuerrieriCampos RacingChevrolet1m43.704s0.616s
5Thed BjorkPolestar Cyan RacingVolvo1m43.715s0.627s
6Nestor GirolamiPolestar Cyan RacingVolvo1m43.690s-
7Mehdi BennaniSebastien Loeb RacingCitroen1m44.062s-
8Tom ChiltonSebastien Loeb RacingCitroen1m44.299s-
9Ryo MichigamiHonda Racing Team JASHonda1m44.400s-
10Yann EhrlacherRC MotorsportLada1m44.803s-
11John FilippiSebastien Loeb RacingCitroen1m44.870s-
12Tom CoronelROAL MotorsportChevrolet1m45.357s-
13Rob HuffMunnich MotorsportCitroen1m45.178s-
14Daniel NagyZengo MotorsportHonda1m45.919s-
15Zsolt SzaboZengo MotorsportHonda1m46.079s-
16Kevin GleasonRC MotorsportLada1m46.432s-

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