Honda claimed victory in the third MAC3 session of the 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship while Tiago Monteiro secured a front-row grid spot at the Hungaroring.
The three-car crew of Ryo Michigami, Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz completed the fastest team time trial at the 2.7-mile circuit near Budapest, emerging on top by nearly four seconds.
Tiago’s ninth-fastest time in qualifying ensures that the Championship leader will start from second place in the reversed-grid Opening Race with a great chance to add to the three podiums he’s taken from the opening four races this season.
His Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team-mate Norbert Michelisz, who is racing in front of his home crowd this weekend, was the fastest of the three Honda Civic WTCCs in the session, which began on a damp track.
His sixth-quickest time in Q2 was agonisingly close to giving the Hungarian hero a spot in Q3, but just fell short.
Norbert, a two-time WTCC race winner in his homeland, will start the Opening Race from fifth spot.
Ryo Michigami showed top-five pace in a wet second practice session, but just missed out on a top-10 grid spot. He qualified 12th for the Main Race and will start the Opening Race from 11th.
Sunday’s Opening Race begins at 1235 with the Main Race following at 1345.
Tiago Monteiro: « On the positive side, I’m on the front row for the Opening Race, which gives me a great chance to increase my Championship lead. P9 isn’t where I expected to be on speed, but the Honda is running maximum compensation weight and in qualifying the first time we’ve had a dry track all weekend you can really feel this having an effect on the car. We’ll work out where we can improve things from tomorrow and then attack. »
Norbert Michelisz: « I’m P6 and with 80kg on board, I think it was a fairly decent lap; I doubt I could have been more than a tenth of a second faster today. P6 and P5 puts me in a situation where I can potentially be in the podium positions just by starting well in both races. I’m sure we can find a little bit of extra speed in the car overnight and challenge for the top three. »
Ryo Michigami: « I’m very happy to be a part of a MAC3-winning team for the first time since I joined the WTCC. It’s a very satisfying feeling. But qualifying was tough and I needed a fast lap at the end to make Q2. My best lap in Q2 featured a good sector one and sector two, but sector three was not so good and we need to investigate why. I’m just outside the top 10, so I have a good chance to score some points tomorrow. This is my target. »
Alessandro Mariani – Team Principal : « It’s very good to secure our first MAC3 victory of 2017 because it helps our position in the Manufacturers’ Championship. But overall qualifying did not go as we’d hoped. The circuit did not evolve as we’d expected when the sun came out and we didn’t go the right way with the set-up. Tomorrow we’re expecting dry weather, so the qualifying places could be decisive. We’ll start assessing ways to strengthen our performance for Sunday right away. »
Ryuichi Furukawa – Large Project Leader WTCC Development, Honda R&D : « We are proud to win MAC3 today and to show the great teamwork of our drivers. We’re not very pleased to have no cars in Q3, but we knew that with 80kg in the cars, it was going to be tough. The gap is still bigger than we were hoping, but we will work hard to make the cars stronger for tomorrow; Tiago can win from the front row and a podium for Norbi is also quite a realistic expectation. »