Nestor Girolami snares pole at the Nürburgring
Nestor Girolami has closed the gap on Yann Ehrlacher in the World Touring Car Cup standings after beating his rival to pole position in qualifying for round two of the season at the Nürburgring.
With the Cyan Racing team having worked hard to repair the damaged car of Santiago Urrutia following his off in second practice at Aremberg, and with the light starting to fail, all 16 cars entered this weekend headed straight out onto the circuit when the 40 minute session kicked off.
Gilles Magnus was the first driver to head off onto the Nordschleife having elected not to pit to swap tyres, before being followed by the four Lynk & Co drivers running line astern.
Magnus had posted three solid sector times in the Audi before he his car was shown running slowly on track heading towards Pflanzgarten, reporting a lack of power and focusing on simply trying to ensure that he could get the car back to the pits for repairs.
The Belgian driver would cross the line to at least log a lap time but it would quickly be bettered by the four Lynk & Cos with Ehrlacher going well under the qualifying lap record held by team-mate Thed Björk to put his car onto provisional pole with a storming lap of 8:52.965s.
Girolami slotted his Honda into second spot when he then crossed the line, seven tenths down on the championship leader, with practice pace-setter Attila Tassi going third quickest. Tom Coronel’s Audi held fourth in his Audi with Mikel Azcona an encouraging fifth in the new Cupra on its first appearance at the Nordschleife.
The introduction of a Code 60 to allow Jack Young’s Vuković Motorsport Renault to be recovered from the gravel at the Dunlop-Kehre after a front-left failure, meant drivers then remained in the pit lane given that improvements in lap times would be impossible.
What appeared to be a simple case of towing the Renault from the gravel trap would take an embarrassing amount of time, with more than 15 minutes passing before Young’s car was moved – and even then not placed behind the barrier.
The yellow flags were eventually withdrawn with just five minutes of the session remaining, which meant that drivers would be given just one final chance to improve on their times, but in what were now dark conditions.
Not amongst them was Ehrlacher however, as failed to start a timed lap before the chequered flag flew – meaning his time became the target for the others to beat.
With Coronel’s Audi leading the way, the man to watch became Girolami as the Argentine driver set a personal best in sector one and then went fastest of all in sectors two, three and four in his bid to secure pole.
Coronel would fail to improve when he took the chequered flag and whilst Tassi would go quicker, he failed to improve on his position and remained in third.
Girolami however was on a charge and when he crossed the line, the Honda went more than a second quicker than Ehrlacher to rocket into pole – earning him ten championship points by virtue of the double score available in the session.
It means Girolami closes to within five points of his rival in the standings.
Ehrlacher was left to settle for second place ahead of Tassi, with Björk jumping up into fourth spot ahead of Coronel and Azcona; the latter being unable to head out for a second timed lap when his Cupra failed the noise test.
Urrutia was seventh fastest but facing a potential investigation into failing to stop at the weigh bridge ahead of Esteban Guerrieri, with Jean-Karl Vernay’s Alfa Romeo and Nathanael Berthon rounding out the top ten.
That means Berthon’s Audi will start the opening race of the weekend on Friday from pole position, with the top ten on the grid being reversed.
Yvan Muller had looked set to take the race one pole as he sat in tenth spot until late improvements moved him down to eleventh place, with Magnus managing to salvage eleventh after quick work in the pits allowed him to get back out and set a time with his car repaired.
Tiago Monteiro will start both races from 13th ahead of Young, with the two Cupra Leon Competicións of Gábor Kismarty-Lechner and Bence Boldizs rounding out the field. Boldizs would fail to set a time having fallen foul of noise limits in his car, as was the case in FP2 earlier in the afternoon.