Suzuka WTCC: Alain Menu claims pole as Chevrolet seals title
|By Peter Mills||Saturday, October 20th 2012, 08:14 GMT|
Alain Menu helped Chevrolet seal the 2012 World Touring Car Championship constructors' title by taking pole position at Suzuka.
The Swiss racer was fastest in both practice sessions and repeated his 2011 pole around the short East layout.
Chevrolets will occupy the first two rows for Sunday's opening race. After heading Q1, Yvan Muller was 0.065 seconds slower than Menu's 52.885s pole time in Q2 to take second.
The qualifying points move reigning WTCC champion Muller one point clear of title rival Rob Huff at the head of the drivers' standings.
Briton Huff made it three RML-run Chevrolet Cruzes in the top three, ahead of a strong effort from circuit debutant Alex MacDowall in Bamboo Engineering's Independent entry.
Mehdi Bennani was delighted to produce one of the best qualifying performances of his WTCC career in fifth, and shaded Slovakia-Ring winner Gabriele Tarquini.
In addition to the factory Chevrolet drivers' championship battle, much intrigue this weekend surrounds the debut of the JAS Sport-developed works Honda Civic.
In a promising maiden outing, former grand prix driver Tiago Monteiro just missed out on the reversed-grid pole in 11th.
Monteiro's late Q1 effort, to end the session in seventh, prompted a round of applause in the Honda garage. It had appeared possible for much of Q1 that Monteiro could miss the Q2 cut.
In the Independents' Trophy battle, points leader Norbert Michelisz endured a tough afternoon. The Hungarian found the gravel trap at the final corner, and later speculated that he had damaged the right-rear of his Zengo BMW.
Michelisz's misfortune provides an opportunity for rival Pepe Oriola. The Spaniard trails Michelisz by 25 points in the Yokohama Drivers' Trophy, but will start five places up the road in ninth.
Wiechers-Sport's Stefano D'Aste earned his third reversed-grid pole position of the season courtesy of 10th position in Q2.
Darryl O'Young had a mixed afternoon on his return to Bamboo Engineering. The Hong Kong racer had quick spin at Turn 8 that compromised his Q2 efforts.
Hiroki Yoshimoto claimed 17th on his maiden WTCC outing of 2012, while fellow newcomers Rene Munnich and Masaki Kano will share the final row.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Alain Menu Chevrolet 52.885s 2. Yvan Muller Chevrolet 52.950s + 0.065s 3. Rob Huff Chevrolet 53.054s + 0.169s 4. Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet 53.206s + 0.321s 5. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 53.224s + 0.339s 6. Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT 53.259s + 0.374s 7. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 53.400s + 0.515s 8. Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT 53.513s + 0.628s 9. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT 53.516s + 0.631s 10. Stefano D'Aste Wiechers BMW 53.729s + 0.844s 11. Tiago Monteiro Honda 53.886s + 1.001s 12. Darryl O'Young Bamboo Chevrolet 54.491s + 1.606s 13. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 53.742s Q1 14. Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 53.746s Q1 15. Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT 53.847s Q1 16. Fernando Monje Tuenti SEAT 53.978s Q1 17. Hiroki Yoshimoto Tuenti SEAT 54.002s Q1 18. Charles Ng Engstler BMW 54.030s Q1 19. James Nash Arena Ford 54.082s Q1 20. Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW 54.100s Q1 21. Tom Chilton Arena Ford 54.330s Q1 22. Rene Munnich Special Tuning SEAT 54.690s Q1 23. Masaki Kano Engstler BMW 55.013s Q1