Motegi WTCC: Zengo's Norbert Michelisz gives Honda home pole

Zengo's Norbert Michelisz upstaged the works drivers to give Honda a home World Touring Car Championship pole at Motegi

Motegi WTCC: Zengo's Norbert Michelisz gives Honda home pole

Last out in the top five qualifying shootout, Michelisz set a time of 1m55.596s to depose long-time pacesetter and championship leader Jose Maria Lopez's Citroen by just 0.080 seconds.

Sebastien Loeb had been the fastest Citroen driver and Honda's closest rival in the earlier practice sessions, but Lopez's resurgence meant the Frenchman settled for third on the grid.

Mehdi Bennani, driving for Loeb's team, was a surprise inclusion in the top five shootout stage and he was able to edge out the third works Citroen of Ma Qing Hua for fourth.

The final Citroen of Yvan Muller finished seventh and never looked likely to reach Q3.

Similarly unexpected was Gabriele Tarquini's position of sixth after Honda's risky strategy gave the Italian one lap to make the crucial top five in Q2, and he fell short by a narrow margin of 0.147s.

Tarquini's team-mate Tiago Monteiro will be relegated to the back for race one for changing an engine, so focused on tactical attempts to secure 10th and race two reverse grid pole.

Even slowing on the start/finish straight on his best lap, Monteiro proved too quick and ended up in an eventual eighth in the Q2 times.

Lada driver Nicky Catsburg had the same penalty and tried the same strategy, and in his case it appeared to pay off as he set the 10th-quickest time.

But when ninth-fastest Tom Chilton's lap was disallowed for a track limits infringement just after the session, Catsburg and Hugo Valente were elevated to ninth and 10th, putting the Campos Chevrolet on race two pole with the Lada alongside.

Lada's newcomer Nicolas Lapierre will start 11th for both races, while team-mate Rob Huff missed the Q2 cut and is 13th.

Tom Coronel considers Japan his home race, and has won more WTCC races there than any other driver, but he could only muster 15th after leaving too little time to improve his lap.

RACE ONE QUALIFYING:

Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap
1 Norbert Michelisz Zengo Motorsport Honda 1m55.596s -
2 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m55.676s 0.080s
3 Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m55.804s 0.208s
4 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 1m55.835s 0.239s
5 Ma Qinghua Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m56.038s 0.442s
6 Gabriele Tarquini Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 1m56.137s -
7 Yvan Muller Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m56.236s -
8 Hugo Valente Campos Racing Chevrolet 1m57.548s -
9 Nicolas Lapierre LADA Sport Rosneft Lada 1m57.702s -
10 Tom Chilton ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 3m44.083s -
11 Rob Huff LADA Sport Rosneft Lada 1m57.383s -
12 Gregoire Demoustier Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet 1m57.434s -
13 Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 1m57.663s -
14 John Filippi Campos Racing Chevrolet 1m58.104s -
15 Stefano D'Aste All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet 1m58.260s -
16 Nicky Catsburg LADA Sport Rosneft Lada 1m57.456s -
17 Tiago Monteiro Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 1m56.635s -

RACE TWO STARTING GRID:

Pos Driver Team Car
1 Hugo Valente Campos Racing Chevrolet
2 Nicky Catsburg LADA Sport Rosneft Lada
3 Tiago Monteiro Honda Racing Team JAS Honda
4 Yvan Muller Citroen Total WTCC Citroen
5 Gabriele Tarquini Honda Racing Team JAS Honda
6 Ma Qinghua Citroen Total WTCC Citroen
7 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen
8 Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WTCC Citroen
9 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen Total WTCC Citroen
10 Norbert Michelisz Zengo Motorsport Honda
11 Nicolas Lapierre LADA Sport Rosneft Lada
12 Tom Chilton ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet
13 Rob Huff LADA Sport Rosneft Lada
14 Gregoire Demoustier Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet
15 Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet
16 John Filippi Campos Racing Chevrolet
17 Stefano D'Aste All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet

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