Photo: WTCC Media

Gianni Morbidelli takes shock pole position in Austria

Münnich Motorsport’s Gianni Morbidelli has taken a surprise pole position at the Salzburgring, despite Citroën dominating in every session so far, including the first two parts of qualifying, the Italian pulled the best lap out of the bag in the single-lap shootout and outqualified reigning champion Yvan Muller by 49-thousandths of a second.

The battle in the first part of qualifying was simply to not be knocked out by a Lada, and with Hugo Valente out of qualifying after his crash in the second practice session, it meant that if one of the Russian cars could outqualify just one of the TC1 class cars they’d get through to Q2.

After José María López made an uncharacteristic mistake at Turn 9, spinning his Citroën C-Elysée at Turn 9, fortunately not making contact with the barriers, bringing gravel back on the track, the majority of cars returned to the pit.

Lada headed out with just enough time to do another lap, which forced the Hondas of Tiago Monteiro and Mehdi Bennani to head out on track as their positions were at risk being tenth and 12th.

Huff led the train, and without a slipstream he was unable to improve, but just behind the Hondas, James Thompson was able to improve to 13th, just missing Q2, but will start from the back due to an engine change penalty for the first race.

In Q2, ten cars just had enough time to set a lap before the sole remaining Campos Racing Chevrolet of Dusan Borkovic crashed out in Turn 9, bringing out the red flag.

When the session resumed, Tom Coronel was 11th and improved to second, securing his spot in Q3 along with the other Chevrolet of Gianni Morbidelli, while all three Citroëns made it with Yvan Muller fastest, Sébastien Loeb fourth and José María López fifth.

Gabriele Tarquini secured tenth and the reversed grid pole position by ending the session in tenth, where he will lead the other three Honda Civics, but will be the last placed Honda in the first race with Tiago Monteiro the fastest in seventh.

In the final part of qualifying, José María López set the first target, but was beaten by Sébastien Loeb by two-tenths of a second. Then Morbidelli went out and set a time of 1:22.137, grabbing pole position which was down to just ROAL’s Tom Coronel and Citroën’s Yvan Muller to stop.

Coronel was unable to improve on Morbidelli’s time, but slotted in fourth between the Citroëns of Loeb and López, while Muller went second fastest, losing time in the second sector compared to Morbidelli, and will start second.

Morbidelli’s pole is the first for any other marque besides Citroën of the season. The first race takes place at 10:00 CET on Sunday.