WTCR Saudi Arabia: Azcona crowned champion as Berthon takes pole

Mikel Azcona sealed the 2022 World Touring Car Cup in qualifying for the series’ last-ever races, as Nathanael Berthon took his first pole position of the season in Saudi Arabia.

WTCR Saudi Arabia: Azcona crowned champion as Berthon takes pole

Spaniard Azcona, 26, became champion at the end of the Q2 session when Munnich Motorsport’s Nestor Girolami, the only driver with a hope of beating him to the title, slumped to the 12th fastest time - missing out on the points on offer in qualifying in order to remain mathematically in the title hunt for Sunday's two races.

The new champion and his BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse team celebrated over the radio, before refocusing on the Q3 shootout. He set the third-best time of the five drivers, as Berthon knocked BRC Hyundai’s Norbert Michelisz off the top spot as the last to run.

“Incredible, unbelievable,” said a delighted Azcona. “I worked all my life for this, a very hard four last years here in WTCR to win the championship. Basically this is my life’s work starting with my family, my parents. Now we are world champions.”

Berthon was also overjoyed having always missed out on pole this season, despite his strong record of making it through to the Q3 shootouts.

“Finally, pole position at the last race,” said the Frenchman. “It’s better than ever, eh? I am very happy. We have worked so hard to have this. We still have a job to do tomorrow and get some points.”

Nathanaël Berthon, Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

Nathanaël Berthon, Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

Photo by: WTCR

On a shortened 2.1-mile layout of the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix circuit, the Hyundai and Audi drivers used tows from their team-mates through Q1 and Q2. But Girolami in his Honda always lacked the pace he required to keep his title hopes alive ahead of the two races on Sunday. He only progressed to Q2 with the 10th best time in Q1 and then was slowest of all in Q2.

Michelisz will join Berthon on the front row for race one on Sunday, with Azcona and Audi’s Tom Coronel on row two. Gilles Magnus was the slowest in the shootout and will line up fifth, with Franco Girolami – brother of Nestor – sixth in his Audi.

Attila Tassi qualified 10th in his Engstler Honda, which means the Hungarian will start the partially reversed-grid race two from pole position.

WTCR Saudi Arabia - Qualifying Results

Q3

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap Interval
1 France Nathanael Berthon Audi 3 1'16.362    
2 Hungary Norbert Michelisz Hyundai 3 1'16.469 0.107 0.107
3 Spain Mikel Azcona Hyundai 3 1'16.512 0.150 0.043
4 Netherlands Tom Coronel Audi 3 1'16.564 0.202 0.052
5 Belgium Gilles Magnus Audi 3 1'16.681 0.319 0.117

Q2

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap Interval
1 France Nathanael Berthon Audi 10 1'16.199    
2 Spain Mikel Azcona Hyundai 7 1'16.310 0.111 0.111
3 Belgium Gilles Magnus Audi 7 1'16.325 0.126 0.015
4 Hungary Norbert Michelisz Hyundai 7 1'16.334 0.135 0.009
5 Netherlands Tom Coronel Audi 9 1'16.379 0.180 0.045
6 Franco Girolami Audi 7 1'16.445 0.246 0.066
7 Netherlands Nick Catsburg Hyundai 8 1'16.589 0.390 0.144
8 Argentina Esteban Guerrieri Honda 7 1'16.740 0.541 0.151
9 Viktor Davidovski Audi 7 1'16.752 0.553 0.012
10 Hungary Attila Tassi Honda 9 1'16.767 0.568 0.015
11 United Kingdom Rob Huff CUPRA 7 1'16.767 0.568 0.000
12 Argentina Nestor Girolami Honda 8 1'16.914 0.715 0.147

Q1

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap Interval
1 Spain Mikel Azcona Hyundai 13 1'16.423    
2 Belgium Gilles Magnus Audi 13 1'16.514 0.091 0.091
3 Franco Girolami Audi 13 1'16.519 0.096 0.005
4 France Nathanael Berthon Audi 13 1'16.549 0.126 0.030
5 Netherlands Nick Catsburg Hyundai 14 1'16.554 0.131 0.005
6 Netherlands Tom Coronel Audi 12 1'16.565 0.142 0.011
7 Hungary Norbert Michelisz Hyundai 14 1'16.589 0.166 0.024
8 Argentina Esteban Guerrieri Honda 15 1'16.728 0.305 0.139
9 Viktor Davidovski Audi 13 1'16.771 0.348 0.043
10 Argentina Nestor Girolami Honda 13 1'16.834 0.411 0.063
11 United Kingdom Rob Huff CUPRA 17 1'16.912 0.489 0.078
12 Hungary Attila Tassi Honda 17 1'16.978 0.555 0.066
13 Hungary Daniel Nagy CUPRA 17 1'17.055 0.632 0.077
14 Ahmed Khaled Audi 17 1'17.309 0.886 0.254
15 Portugal Tiago Monteiro Honda 16 1'17.708 1.285 0.399
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WTCR Saudi Arabia: Hero to zero for Berthon as series comes to a close

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