Esteban Guerrieri secured his maiden FIA World Touring Car Championship pole position ahead of the season finale at Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
The Argentinian driver produced a superb lap in the second, Q2, part of qualifying and then resisted extreme pressure to claim the top spot for the Main Race in the single-lap Q3 by over three tenths of a second.
It was the fifth pole of the season for Honda, making the Civic WTCC the most successful car in qualifying during the 2017 season. Esteban will start the reversed-grid Opening Race from 10th.
Team-mate Norbert Michelisz, who arrived in Qatar second in the Drivers’ Championship and just 6.5 points away from the series lead, continued his table-topping practice form by setting the pace in Q1.
Unfortunately for the Hungarian, he suffered a braking issue during Q2, which forced him to back off on his first flying lap.
Without time to repair the issue in the five minutes that remained of the session, he was limited to 11th place on the starting grid for both races and is now 8.5 points behind in the Drivers’ Championship with 55 up for grabs.
After setting an encouraging seventh-fastest time in FP2 on Thursday night, Ryo Michigami was hopeful of a repeat performance in qualifying.
Unfortunately for the Japanese driver, he suffered a half-spin early on, limiting his time on track and restricting him to 13th place on the grid for both races.
Following qualifying, the final MAC3 session of 2017 took place. Esteban, Norbert and Ryo came second meaning Honda are now 16.5 points away from the Manufacturers’ Championship lead with 96 still available in Friday night’s two races.
Esteban Guerrieri #86 : « I’m very happy to have taken my first WTCC pole position and now I’ll have to see what I can do in the races. The conditions were tough today because with the sunlight and the track temperatures much higher than in practice, it was very slippery. I had to manage my driving style quite a bit, but the result was what we needed from a Manufacturers’ Championship point of view. I’m gutted for Norbi because he was so fast all weekend, but he’s a very quick driver and we’ll do everything we can to help him in his title battle.
Norbert Michelisz #5 : « Things were going extremely well in practice and then in Q1 because we were fastest, but in Q2 I felt something not right with the braking in Turn 7 and Turn 8 and I had to back off after that. Unfortunately, there was no time to fix it before the end of Q2 so the result is P11 – a lot worse than we expected. We’ve fought for this title all season though, and we’re not going to give up now. The car is so fast here and I know I can make good progress. I’m going to give it everything. »
Ryo Michigami #34 : « After my good recent qualifying form, P13 is quite disappointing. I lost a lot of track time yesterday with some technical issues in practice and because of this we had to gamble on a set-up for the daytime conditions. Unfortunately, this didn’t work and the rear was very nervous. I had a half-spin early in Q1 and destroyed my tyres, and on my second set I wasn’t able to have the pace needed for Q2. It’s a shame, but the car has good speed here and I’m sure I can go forwards in both races to help the team as much as I can. »
Alessandro Mariani – Team Principal : « I have very mixed feelings about the day so far. On the one hand, the Honda is clearly the fastest car here, as you can see from us being fastest in every session. On the other hand, I am so incredibly sorry for Norbi because his braking issue in Q2 is something we’ve never had before. It’s now very tough to win both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships, but we’ve seen today that anything can happen in motorsport, so we’ll never give up until it’s over. »
Ryuichi Furukawa – Large Project Leader WTCC Development, Honda R&D : « I’m delighted for Esteban, who has done a fantastic job and deserves his pole, but very disappointed that Norbi suffered an issue with sticking brakes. He was extremely fast in practice and Q1, so I’m sure he had the speed to be right at the front. The championship fight will be even more difficult now, but we must be positive and work for every last point. This is not over yet. »
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