– Muller & Chilton qualify 4th & 5th in halted session
– Honda takes 1-2 advantage, but RML Cruzes ready to pounce
– Consistent points-finishes are ‘key’
SLOVAKIARING (Slovakia) – Saturday 27 April: Yvan Muller and Tom Chilton have qualified 4th and 5th ahead of tomorrow’s opening race but despite missing out on the front row, the RML teammates have it all to play for.
A first lap incident involving Daryl O’Young’s BMW brought proceedings to a halt under the red flag whilst extensive barrier repair and circuit sweep took place, meaning only Rob Huff, Pepe Oriola and Marc Basseng had set a time before the 30-minute delay.
On the restart Chilton was the first of the RML Cruzes to rejoin the track and all too briefly held the top of the timesheets before Muller momentarily jumped ahead on their first runs – but it wasn’t to last as the Hondas of Gabriele Tarquini, Tiago Monteiro and customer team Norbert Michelisz surged to the top of the timing screen.
Into the second qualifying session Chilton was on good form, setting the fastest time in the first sector but by session end the Briton lost time and could only manage P5. Hoping to menace the Hondas, Muller had significantly reduced the gap to Tarquini to within just under two tenths in the sister Cruze, but it just wasn’t enough to rewrite the grid. The three-time World Champion starts from 4th and Bamboo Engineering’s Alex MacDowall rounds out the top six – the scene is set for an intriguing fight as Honda versus Chevrolet.
Yvan Muller: “That was a tough qualifying session. The Hondas are very fast here so that was the best I could do, but let’s see what happens in the race.”
Tom Chilton: “Today has been a mix of highs and lows. The lows being the Hondas have overtaken us this weekend on solid pace – which we think is mainly down to the long loading corners and us running with 40kg more success ballast. But the highs are that we went quicker than last year and I am now getting to grips with the car. This is the closest I’ve been to Yvan in qualifying so far – only two tenths off and I was slightly held up.
“I take lots of positives on a personal note. The car feels great to drive around here, it handles really well. I just wish we didn’t have the ballast.”
Ron Hartvelt, WTCC Project Supervisor: “I think we can be very happy with our pace and we’re definitely in better shape here than in 2012. It seems to be a bit of a bogey track for us, but of course we now have the extra 40kgs ballast here that only the Cruzes run, which in turns doesof course have a negative side effect but I think weight corrected we can be pleased with that session. Now we have to see what tomorrow brings – it’s a long championship and consistency in the points is key.”
Qualifying Results (top 10)
1. Gabriele Tarquini Honda 2m10.773s
2. Tiago Monteiro Honda 2m10.877s
3. Norbert Michelisz Zengo Honda 2m10.889s
4. Yvan Muller RML Chevrolet 2m10.941s
5. Tom Chilton RML Chevrolet 2m11.162s
6. Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet 2m11.422s
7. Robert Huff Munnich SEAT 2m11.624s
8. James Nash Bamboo Chevrolet 2m11.714s
9. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT 2m11.882s
10. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 2m12.048s