Gabriele Tarquini takes Slovakiaring pole as Hyundais dominate
The close-fought second free practice session proved to be a red herring in Slovakia, as the Hyundais all surged forward in Friday’s qualifying session, with Gabriele Tarquini snatching pole position back from his BRC Hyundai team-mate Norbert Michelisz to lead a 1-2-3 for the manufacturer, a second clear of the next best model.
Tarquini’s best time of 2:09.312 was an astonishing two seconds faster than the time set in the second free practice session by Münnich Honda driver Yann Ehrlacher, with the Italian pipping his team-mate Norbert Michelisz by over three-tenths of a second at the end of the 30-minute session.
The session was red-flagged after five minutes when the Campos Racing Cupra TCR of John Filippi buried itself in the gravel at Turn 6, and was unable to rejoin, with the Corsican consigned to the back of the grid for Race 1.
Norbert Michelisz immediately shot to pole position with a time of 2:09.664, showing the true pace of the Hyundai Customer Racing cars.
The only drivers to trouble the Hyundais in the early stages were the ballast-free cars of Aurélien Comte, in his DG Peugeot 308TCR, and Pepe Oriola in the Campos Cupra, but late improvements by Tarquini, with his last-minute pole position lap, and from YMR’s Yvan Muller saw them grab first and third on the grid.
Thed Björk didn’t set further laps in the final moments and dropped to seventh, with the Swede due to start from the back of the grid for Race 1 tomorrow due to an engine change.
Comte finished up as the Hyundai’s closest rival in fourth, 1.0 seconds down, with Oriola fifth.
Esteban Guerrieri was the fastest of the Hondas in sixth, with Jean-Karl Vernay the top Audi in eigthh ahead of Tom Coronel and Yann Ehrlacher’s Hondas.
Local hero Mat’o Homola just missed the top ten and qualified 11th in his DG Sport Peugeot 308TCR, with Fabrizio Giovanardi the faster of the two Mulsanne Alfa Romeos in 15th, with his new team-matea Kevin Ceccon 21st.
The Volkswagens suffered a disastrous session, with all three cars at the bottom of the time sheets, not counting the untimed Cupra of John Filippi, with Rob Huff qualifying 23rd, Mehdi Bennani 24th and wild card driver Andrej Studenic 25th.
The first race is scheduled for 12:00 CEST tomorrow.