The Honda Civic Type R TCR will start from the second row at its home round of the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup at Suzuka, Japan, after a sterling effort from Esteban Guerrieri
The ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport driver was a magnificent third-fastest in Friday afternoon’s opening qualifying session to ensure he starts the first race of the weekend from that spot.
Unfortunately, the Argentinian was hit by Yvan Muller on his out-lap during second qualifying’s Q2 section and spun around.
After superb work from the team to check the car over, Esteban made it onto his flying lap just one second before the chequered flag came out, but agonisingly missed out on 10th place – and Race Two’s reversed-grid pole position – after setting an identical time to the car already occupying the position, meaning he starts both of Sunday’s races from 11th.
Team-mate Yann Ehrlacher qualified fourth in the regular 30-minute session for Race One, and then repeated his achievement in the three-stage second qualifying. He starts Race Three from fourth and Race Two from seventh.
Team-mate Timo Scheider qualified 18th in both sessions; closing the gap considerably from FP1 through to second qualifying. The German will start the opening race from 21st due to a grid penalty carried over from the previous event in Wuhan.
Tiago Monteiro’s return to action after a 14-month injury layoff resulted in 16th place on the grid for Races Two and Three.
After receiving a guard of honour from the rest of WTCR drivers during practice, the Portuguese lapped just 0.7 seconds off the pace in second qualifying’s Q1 session. He starts Race One from 18th.
His Boutsen Ginion Racing team-mate Tom Coronel suffered a blow when red flags flew in the final minute of second qualifying just as he set his personal best time in the opening sector.
With the session not resumed, he had no opportunity to improve on his 23rd spot for Races Two and Three. He will start Race One from 22nd.
Esteban Guerrieri #86 (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport) : « To qualify third for Saturday’s race is a good result and we’ve worked hard to achieve it. We’ve improved the car from session to session and the race pace looks strong. We should have done at least as well in second qualifying, but instead I’m 11th because I was hit by [Yvan] Muller. He was slow on his out-lap, I went to follow some other cars by passing him and suddenly he increased his speed, hit me and spun me round. It was a totally unnecessary incident and it’s ended up costing me a strong qualifying performance. I’m very frustrated. »
Yann Ehrlacher #68 (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport) : « I was fourth fastest in both qualifying sessions and this is very pleasing. It gives me a very good chance of finishing on the podium, which is what I’d like after things have been pretty tough for us since Vila Real. The cars in front of us are much lighter than us this weekend and that means they’ll wear their tyres less in the races and we’ll need to try to counter-act that. The race pace of the Honda is usually pretty strong and we’ll work together as a team tonight to make sure we’re in the best possible shape to capitalise on this strong run. »
Timo Scheider #42 (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport) : « People have told me how amazing Suzuka is to drive and after today – my first experience of the circuit – I can say the hype is definitely justified. Eighteenth isn’t what I was aiming for, but when you consider that I’ve qualified ahead of the World Touring Car Champion and I’m within a tenth or two of many other top drivers with a lot more front-wheel-drive experience than me, it looks ok. The races will be different again, but we’ll see what we can to try and move forwards. »
Tiago Monteiro #18 (Boutsen Ginion Racing) : « I’m so happy to be back. The welcome from the whole WTCR family has been incredible, and makes me feel amazing. It’s pretty special to make my comeback here at Suzuka – the same circuit where I gave the Honda Civic its WTCC debut in 2012. I said when my return was confirmed that I wasn’t setting targets, but honestly, to be two seconds off the pace in FP1 and then get that down to 0.7s by second qualifying – and less than 0.2s off making Q2 – is pretty satisfying. I don’t know what I can do tomorrow, but I’ll be pushing as hard as I can. »
Tom Coronel #9 (Boutsen Ginion Racing) : « I have mixed feelings after qualifying. We’re starting quite far down the grid, but I’m actually pleased with the feeling I have from the car because it’s a big step forward from China. In second qualifying, I was very unlucky because we chose a strategy to wait until late in the session for my final run because the track would be faster, but then on my final lap, we had a red flag when I was on course to come up to about 15th place, which would have helped us big-time in Races Two and Three. Unfortunately, that’s motor racing, but I think in the races I can go forwards. »
Dominik Greiner – Team Manager – ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport : « We’re on the second row for two of the three races to come and that’s very positive at Honda’s home circuit. The pace has been very strong from Esteban and Yann and the target for both of them is to finish on the podium this weekend, while Timo has been learning the circuit and gaining more experience with front-wheel-drive cars. Esteban was extremely unlucky with the incident with Muller in Q2, and the team did a fantastic job to fix damage on his left-rear corner and get him back on-track for one final effort, so hats off to them. »
Olivia Boutsen – Team Manager – Boutsen Ginion Racing : « It’s great to have Tiago in the car for the first time this year and we’re so pleased he’s been given such a great ‘welcome home’ by the whole paddock. His pace – and Tom’s – was pretty strong today and if we hadn’t had the red flag in second qualifying, I think you’d have seen both of them higher up the grid. Tomorrow’s another day, but the race pace should be good and I think we can move forwards. »