Honda : Tassi to start final ever WTCR race from pole

Honda Racing driver Attila Tassi will start the final race of the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup era in Jeddah from pole position.

The Hungarian showed fine pace across Saturday at the 3.450-kilometre circuit, ending both practice sessions in the top 10 on what proved a difficult day for the Civic Type R TCR drivers.

In the final qualifying session of the 2022 season – and for the WTCR, which will not continue in 2023 – Attila dragged his LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler Honda Civic Type R TCR to the 10th-fastest time in Q2 to bag the partially reversed-grid pole for Race Two.

Team-mate Tiago Monteiro ended the final qualifying session of a tricky campaign in 15th.

His best efforts to wring time out of the car were thwarted by vibrations that persisted throughout practice and qualifying, making his battle an uphill one.

Esteban Guerrieri ended Saturday with the best qualifying result among the Honda Racing quartet in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Civic Type R TCR.

In what was an ultra-close Q2 session, The Argentinian recorded the eighth-fastest time.

He will serve a three-place grid penalty in Race and line-up 11th but, like Attila, will have one final chance to add to his tally of podiums in the WTCR – which currently stands at 25 – from third on the grid in Race Two.

His team-mate Nestor Girolami’s run to the 12th-fastest time illustrated just how tough the battle facing the Civic Type R TCR drivers was in qualifying.

‘Bebu’, who will end 2022 with a record of three pole positions and two more top-three qualifying efforts, was unable to reproduce those results as his mathematical title hopes came to an end.

To compound that, his car did not have the minimum amount of fuel after qualifying and Nestor had all his lap times cancelled, meaning he will start both races from the back of the grid.

Sunday’s two races will both take place under floodlights at the Formula 1 Grand Prix venue. Race One starts at 7.40pm local time, with the curtain coming down on the WTCR with Race Two at 10.15pm.

Attila Tassi #9 – LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler : « It was a hard session. We knew it wouldn’t be easy because we didn’t have a chance against the fastest cars, so obviously I’m really happy to end up with the reversed-grid pole on a street track like this one. On my quickest lap I made a small mistake when a car went off ahead, which distracted me, but other than that it was quite decent. I know it won’t be easy to contain the cars behind because of their straightline speed, but I’ll do my best to keep them at bay and I won’t be moving over without a fight. Thanks to the team; I hope I can repay their work with an unforgettable final race of the WTCR era. »

Tiago Monteiro #18 – LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler : « We hoped for more, but unfortunately I had big vibrations so this result ends up being a continuation of what’s been a frustrating season. I had those vibration issues in Bahrain but they were worse here, and every session has felt tough despite changing a lot of things. At some points the vibrations are so big that I can’t talk in the car and it’s making the braking points tricky to judge – sometimes I end up a bit late, sometimes I’m too early. There’s something weird, so I hope we can find a solution for tomorrow because this isn’t the way any of us want to finish the season. »

Esteban Guerrieri #86 – ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport : « Making the top 10 in qualifying has to go down as a pretty positive Saturday. I could anticipate before the weekend that the track wasn’t going to suit us as well as our rivals and it’s proved that way; it’s not great for our car’s potential. But nevertheless it was good to extract the maximum out of the tyres and set just about the best lap I could have hoped for. We weren’t too far off, but half a second in the end is a bit too big a gap to bridge to make it to Q3. But the important thing is we’re in the top 10 and can fight from there in the races. »

Néstor Girolami #29 – ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport : « It was a tough day to be honest. Much like we have done for the past few seasons at Aragon, here we were struggling a lot with top speed and couldn’t do anything compared to the frontrunners. That’s the case for all of us Honda drivers. It’s difficult to digest because I want to finish the season on a high and this makes it a bit more difficult tomorrow. But this is what we have for now and we’ll be sure to fight until the end. I want to congratulate Mikel Azcona for winning the title. He is a deserving winner, so well done to him and his team. »

Qualifying : 1. Berthon Nathanaël – Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, 10 points ; 2. Michelisz Norbert – BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, 4 pts ; 3. Azcona Mikel – BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, 8 pts ; 4. Coronel Tom – Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, 2 pts ; 5. Magnus Gilles – Comtoyou Team Audi Sport, 6 pts…

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