Race Track / 10 May 2014

Honda Civic fourth fastest in dramatic qualifying for Slovakia Ring WTCC event

FIA WTCC - Round 4 - Slovakia Ring - Qualifying Report

The Honda Civic of Norbert Michelisz battled through the three quick-fire qualifying sessions to set the fourth fastest time to take a well-deserved second row grid position for tomorrows FIA World Touring Car Championship race here at the Slovakia Ring. Norbert had set quick times in each of the morning’s free practice sessions and then put his Zengo" Motorsport run Civic at the top of the timesheets with his very first flying lap in Q1. The popular young Hungarian was second fastest in Q2 before going into the single car shoot-out Q3 where he set 4th fastest time to secure the second row starting spot.

Norbert was delighted with his result. “I am quite happy with my position. I went through qualifying without any problems and the car got better and better, every lap improving since Friday. After a day’s testing I am getting more and more confident in the Honda and this circuit layout is good for me and the car. I am hoping for a top position in Race 1.”

For the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team qualifying proved less rewarding but Tiago Monteiro secured pole position for Race 2 with 10th fastest overall. Gabriele Tarquini was a comfortable 5th fastest in Q1 but had a scary high-speed drama in Q2 when a bonnet pin broke allowing the bonnet to obscure his view whilst travelling at more than 240kph. The experienced Italian managed to bring the Civic to a halt without contact with the barriers and brought the car quickly back to the pits. Mechanics frantically fixed the bonnet down but Gabriele had just seconds left of the session but managed to set 8th quickest time.

For Mehdi Bennani in the Proteam Racing Civic good practice times turned sour when a turbo problem eliminated the Moroccan from Q1. The car will be repaired but he will start both races from the back of the grid.

Tiago Monteiro had predicted that the Slovakia Ring would be more of a test than the Hungaroring where he had taken two very positive podium results. “The Civic was harder to drive here on used tyres than I expected but when we fitted the new tyres it as much better and immediately had good balance. This is a technical circuit and you have to get those sections right to get a quick lap time. I was going for the lap in Q2 when Gabriele had his moment and I had to go on the grass which damaged my underfloor and upset the balance. So I need to get a good start in Race 2 and get a good rhythm and I think I can take a podium position.”

At the post qualifying press conference Tarquini explained the incident. “For me it was a very hot moment. I was following Norbi to set a time immediately and suddenly at the entry to turn 2 the bonnet flew up and blocked my view. Of course I immediately tried to stop but got a big oversteer and could only see out of my side window. Cars were all avoiding me and I was pleased to stop safely. I pushed the bonnet down and got back to the pits for my mechanics to make some repairs for me to continue. Now I have to work hard to be in race 2 and then see that we get more points from the result”

Alessandro Mariani, Team Principal of the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team said: “Unfortunately a breakage is not good news especially in Q2. We will investigate what caused this and make changes. We are working hard to develop the Civic but we have had four racing events in just over one month and one days testing so we have lots of work to do with alternative settings and components.”

Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC engine development from Honda R&D is positive. “We continue with the throttle control mapping program that we used successfully in Hungary and have made further adaptations for the Slovakia Ring.”

Startgrid Race 1: 1. José-Maria Lopez, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 2’03’’912; 2. Sébastien Loeb, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 2’04’’284;; 3. Yvan Muller, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 2’04’’541; 4. Norbert Michelisz, Honda Civic WTCC 2’04’’903;  5. Gianni Morbidelli, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 2’04’’931; ; 6. Tom Chilton, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 2’04’’870; 7. Tom Coronel, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 2’04”988; 8. Gabriele Tarquini, Honda Civic WTCC 2’05’’363; 9. Hugo Valente, Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 2’05’’429; 10. Tiago Monteiro, Honda Civic WTCC 2’05’’685; ... 20. Mehdi Bennani,  Honda Civic WTCC