Muller saves his best for home with sensational WTCR Qualifying charge

– French hero lives up to most successful FIA World Touring Car driver in history tag
– Pole position run marks Muller’s first Qualifying Q3 appearance of 2021
– Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Ehrlacher extends title lead with points in both Q1 and Q3
– Vernay back on top form but misses out on pole position by 0.233s
– Vervisch secures reverse-grid pole position after completing Q2 in P10
– Top 19 in Q1 covered by little more than one second
– Challenging Circuit Pau-Arnos hosting WTCR action for the first time

WTCR Race of France, Circuit Pau-Arnos, October 15-17, 2021: Qualifying report
WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup, rounds 11 and 12 of 16

WTCR Race of France Qualifying fastest 5:
1 Yvan Muller (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR, 1m18.973s (138.1kph)
2 Jean-Karl Vernay (FRA) Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, 1m19.206s
3 Norbert Michelisz (HUN) BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, 1m19.235s
4 Santiago Urrutia (URY) Cyan Performance Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR, 1m20.093s
5 Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR, 1m20.333s
Reverse-grid pole: Frédéric Vervisch, Comtoyou Racing Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

Yvan Muller claimed his first pole position of the FIA WTCR − World Touring Car Cup season by topping Qualifying at WTCR Race of France with a sensational lap in his Goodyear-equipped Lynk & Co 03 TCR.

The home hero proved fastest in the Q3 shootout at Circuit Pau-Arnos in his Cyan Racing Lynk & Co entry to head fellow Frenchman Jean-Karl Vernay (Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Elantra N TCR).

« Yes, the first pole position of the season, » said Muller, after little more than one second covered the fastest 19 in Qualifying Q1. « It was a good lap. I think it could have been better, but we always think that! »

Magnus in a muddle in Q1
The Q1 session was interrupted by a red flag after nearly six of its 20 minutes when Gilles Magnus lost control of his Comtoyou Team Audi Sport R3 LMS and hit a tyre barrier. « I’m so stupid! » he said on the radio to his team. « I didn’t take a big hit, but they will have to pull me out. » Once he’d been extracted from a gravel trap, Magnus was able to drive back to the pits, but could take no further part in qualifying as the cause of the red flag.

Right at the end of the session Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Yann Ehrlacher jumped to the top of the times with a great effort of 1m18.820s to knock Norbert Michelisz down to second. Vernay was third and Gabriele Tarquini made it three Hyundais in the top four. Esteban Guerrieri was the fastest of the Hondas in fifth from Santiago Urrutia in sixth.

The others to make the cut were Néstor Girolami (Honda), Yvan Muller (Lynk & Co), Thed Björk (Lynk & Co), Frédéric Vervisch (Audi), Tiago Monteiro (Honda) and Nathanaël Berthon (Audi). But there was disappointment for those who missed out on a top 12 place and failed to progress to Q2. Luca Engstler was the first to lose out in P13, ahead of Rob Huff and Tom Coronel. « It was so close, » said the Dutchman. « I really thought I’d be in. »

Vernay tops Q2 as Vervisch secures reverse-grid pole
Vernay was fastest in the first runs of the 10-minute Q2 session and he backed that pace up with a better lap of 1m18.777s to qualify fastest for Q3. He was joined by Michelisz and the Lynk & Co trio of Ehrlacher, Muller and Urrutia.

Guerreri was the first to miss out on Q3 in sixth, from ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team-mate Girolami, Tarquini and Björk. Vervisch qualified in P10, which means he will start the partially reversed-grid Race 1 from pole position.

« I cannot be too disappointed, » said Argentine Guerrieri, who travelled to France from his home in Barcelona second in the points to Ehrlacher. « We saw the blue cars had something left and the Hyundais are in front. We are in the mix. »

Ehrlacher fifth in Q3, Uncle Muller first
Ehrlacher, last season’s King of WTCR, was the first to run in the one-at-a-time Q3 shootout. The home ace was a little ragged on his lap, setting a benchmark time of 1m20.333s. « I was on used tyres so I was expecting a slow Q3 lap, » he said. His uncle Muller was next and put in a much stronger lap to go fastest by a significant 1.360s.

The third of the Lynk & Cos driven by Urrutia followed, the Uruguayan proving faster than Muller in the first sector but appearing to drive to a team-dictated delta over the rest of the lap to log a time 1.120s off the four-time FIA World Touring Car champion’s mark. But he was still 0.240s quicker than Ehrlacher. « It was good to be in Q3 again, » he said. « We scored good points for the team which is the most important thing for us. »

Vernay was the first of the Honda-powered racers to run. The Frenchman looked on a mission, but didn’t quite have enough to knock Muller from provisional pole, falling short by 0.233s. « It was a pretty good, » he said. « I thought it would be enough, but it wasn’t. Congratulations to Yvan – even though he was driving karts with my father! I wanted this pole to have good track position for Race 2, but I think we have to be happy. »

It was all down to Michelisz. But the Hungarian fell short to go third, leaving the final order as Muller, Vernay, Michelisz, Urrutia and Ehrlacher. « Qualifying was okay, » said Michelisz. « The last three weekends I’ve been in Q3, which is a nice feeling. I think we extracted everything and I’m confident for the races. »

Race 1 at WTCR Race of France is scheduled over 18 laps and is due to begin at 10h15 local time on Sunday (October 17) with Race 2 following at 12h15 over 21 laps.

TOP 3 DRIVER QUOTES
Yvan Muller (Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR) : « If there was only one pole position to do during the season it would be this one. So it’s nice. Initially at the beginning of the year that race was not planned, we should be in Asia at this moment, because of all the complications we are here and it’s a good thing. Of course very pleased with the pole position and very pleased with the pace and the team work we all did. We deserve it. For Race 1 will start in P10, so it is important to save the car to be safe for Race 2, which can be complicated with the first corner, the chicane, anything can happen there. We saw last week in Most what happened, so I just hope everybody will stay calm and clever. But there is always one who is disconnecting! So I hope it is not too strong. »

Jean-Karl Vernay (Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team) : « It’s a good day. Since this morning I’ve had a good feeling. I think we worked pretty well all together, all the Hyundai drivers to set up a really good car. From Q1 the car was excellent. The tyre degredation is also quite huge for the rear tyres for us, so that was kind of the key of the qualifying just making sure we save some good tyres for Q3, which is what we did. Yvan just beat us, he did a better job and that’s all. Of course, I’m a little bit frustrated not to be on pole as we are in France and I think we had the potential. We did a good lap time in Q2, just in Q3 I didn’t feel the same grip as before and we just missed some tenths and that’s pole. But I think we can be proud of our performance. I’m also happy we’re P2 and P3 for Hyundai with Norbi. Now let’s score some good points tomorrow, we definitely need to if we want to be back for the fight for the titles. So yeah, it’s a good day for now. »

Norbert Michelisz (BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse) : « Yeah, the target to be honest was to be here. If you are in Q3 the target then is always to get pole, but I’m not sure we could have done this because the lap of Yvan was very impressive. So I had of course a small, small margin but not enough to be on pole today. But anyway, happy for the team and congrats to Yvan because it was a very nice effort. And in the end starting from P3 I still have all the possibilities, even to get a race win tomorrow. So in the end I’m confident with our long-run pace. Of course the races won’t be easy because it’s a particular circuit. But in the end I’m happy with what happened today, happy with the points we scored and very happy with the baseline we set for tomorrow. »

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