Esteban Guerrieri on front-row ahead of WTCR title-decider at Sepang

Esteban Guerrieri and ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport remain firmly in the hunt for the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Championship after qualifying on the front row for the season finale.

With his Honda Civic Type R TCR team-mate Nestor Girolami securing third place in the Race One starting order and second on Race Two’s partially-reversed grid, the German team have a driver in the top three for each of Sunday’s races.

An ultra-close battle ensured somebody was going to end Race One qualifying disappointed. Unfortunately for Esteban, who was less than 0.3 seconds slower than third-placed team-mate Nestor, it was him in 10th spot.

Numerous set-up changes were applied to the Civic, all of which were to Esteban’s liking, and he set his best times in night qualifying to ensure he’ll start the final race of the season from second place and Race Two from ninth.

Nestor, by contrast, showed excellent speed in the daytime session to qualify third, and added ninth place at night; meaning he starts there for the finale, and inherits second spot for Race Two.

The day’s qualifying results mean that Esteban is now 15 points away from the series lead with 75 available from Sunday’s three races, while Münnich have cut the gap in the Team’s Championship from 88 points to 81 with 135 remaining and their key rivals behind them on the grid for all three races.

Attila Tassi secured the best qualifying position for a KCMG driver at Sepang; the young Hungarian brilliantly going ninth-fastest in the opening session of night qualifying before being denied a shot at the reversed-grid pole when he was impeded by a rival.

That left him 12th, but in with a great chance of a double top-10 finish. His result was a testament to an in-depth debrief after a first session in which he qualified 21st.

Team-mate Tiago Monteiro showed top-10 pace in both practice sessions, but lost his chance of a reversed-grid pole by making a mistake at the final corner on his fastest lap. He starts Race One 14th and the other two from 16th.

Making his front-wheel-drive race debut as a wildcard, KC Motorgroup’s Joao Paulo de Oliveira impressed by qualifying best of the Hong Kong team’s trio of drivers in 13th place for Race One, but fell foul of a spinning rival and a full-course yellow in the first part of the night session to seal an unrepresentative 25th.

Esteban Guerrieri #86 – ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport : « The first qualifying wasn’t great and there were still things we were trying to improve right up to the start of the second session, but we worked on these things very methodically as a group and in the night session the Honda felt really hooked-up. I managed to get to a very high level of performance; we were in the top five in Q1, Q2 and Q3. Although pole position was a bit of a big ask today, the target was the front row, and we achieved this. The team got everything right and that means the championship is still wide open. Let’s see what the weather does; rain could turn this battle upside down. »

Nestor Girolami #29 – ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport : « It’s been a strong day for me in qualifying, and especially for the team. Third for the opening race and then second on the reversed grid. Ninth for the final race isn’t quite as good, but I think from those positions I have a good chance of winning a race on Sunday, of trying to get every point I can for the Teams’ Championship and of helping Esteban in his attempt to win the Drivers’ title. He’s still very much in the hunt so we have to do everything we can to help him. »

Tiago Monteiro #18 – KCMG : « I’m really happy with the Honda here. It feels good and I’m sure we have a good set-up for the races, in the daylight and at night. I’m not so happy with myself. I was in the top 10 in practice and could have repeated this in qualifying, but couldn’t replicate it in the Race One session, and then in the Race Three session, on my final lap of Q1, I got a bit greedy at the last corner and cost myself a spot in Q2. From 14th and 16th, I’m aiming to score good points and finish each race higher than I start them. »

Attila Tassi #9 – KCMG : « I’m very happy with the pace in the night qualifying. I had no rhythm in the afternoon session so I looked at a lot of data with my engineer and we came up with some solutions that made a huge difference to my speed – 0.8 seconds! I’m not happy at all with the driving of Augusto Farfus. I understand that he was trying to create a gap for his team-mates, but he just stopped in front of me in the pitlane and he braked much earlier than normal on the last two corners of my last flying lap and really held me up. Without this, the reversed-grid pole position was a big possibility. »

Joao Paulo de Oliveira #38 – KC Motorgroup : « First qualifying was much better than I expected. I’ve never raced a front-wheel-drive car, so I’m very proud to out-qualify my team-mates for Race One in 13th place. We had the pace to do the same for the other races, but on my first run another car spun in front of me and I had to off to avoid him, and on the next I had the full-course yellow come out, so I was 25th. I can definitely make up positions from there, because 13th was a lot more representative of my pace than 25th. »

Dominik Greiner – Team Manager – ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport : « Having two front-row starts and a driver in the top three for each race is an excellent accomplishment when you look at where we were after practice. It means we’re absolutely still in contention to win the Drivers’ Championship with Esteban, and to do our best to finish as high as we can in the Teams’ title race. We will now study every last piece of data to make sure Esteban has the absolute best car we can give him for the races. We need to focus on scoring big points with both drivers and if we can execute this, and have a bit of luck, we have a very good chance. »

Dario d’Esposito – Team Principal – KCMG : « We had two purposes today; to be fast, but also to try to help Esteban in his battle for the championship. Tiago and Joao Paulo did very well in first qualifying and were extremely close to Esteban on times, without having the benefit of a good slipstream, and Tiago carried that good speed into night qualifying, but made a mistake on his fastest lap unfortunately. Attila did some very good work between the sessions and was fast at night. He could have been on the reversed-grid pole before [Augusto] Farfus deliberately braked early twice in the last two corners and ruined his lap. We protested him and wait to hear what the Race Stewards will say. »

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