Gianni Morbidelli takes pole in Imola qualifying thriller

Gianni Morbidelli took pole position in a very close qualifying session at Imola, Italy. The WestCoast Racing driver will start ahead of title rival Pepe Oriola, who was just 0.057s slower than the Honda driver in his Craft-Bamboo Lukoil SEAT. Davit Kajaia will line up third for the first race tomorrow in the Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR.

Morbidelli set the pace in the first session as well, finishing ahead of team-mate Mikhail Grachev and Oriola. Stefano Comini was fourth in the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, ahead of Mat’o Homola’s B3 Racing SEAT.

During the first segment of qualifying an incident between Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay and WestCoast Racing’s Alain Menu left the Frenchman with a damaged car, as the Golf cannoned into the Honda’s left door at Variante Alta after cutting the chicane. With BD Racing’s Carlotta Fedeli and Alessandra Neri off the pace and Vernay stuck in 14th, the battle to progress up to Q2 was limited to one car. Despite two quick laps, Jordi Oriola failed to qualify for the second segment, as both times were disallowed due to track limits infringements, allowing B3 Racing’s Attila Tassi through to Q2.

In the second session Oriola was very close to Morbidelli, with the Spaniard just 0.057s slower than the Italian. Morbidelli had been improving his sector times, but a slide at Rivazza cost him several tenths and prevented him from going quicker. His third lap of the stint was enough for pole position, with Oriola in second ahead of Kajaia. 2015 champion Stefano Comini came fourth ahead of WestCoast Racing’s new signing Mikhail Grachev, with Mat’o Homola sixth in his B3 Racing SEAT León.

Alain Menu recovered from the Q1 accident to claim seventh on his debut for WestCoast Racing in the Honda Civic ahead of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Sergey Afanasyev, while the Russian’s SEAT team-mate James Nash will line up on the front row for the reversed-grid Race 2 alongside pole-sitter and tenth outright Jordi Gené’s Engstler Volkswagen.

Attila Tassi finished 11th, while Dusan Borkovic had a lap time disallowed and had no more timed laps, meaning he will start 12th in both races alongside his B3 Racing SEAT team-mate.

The first race will start at 14.10 CET.