Published on June 26th, 2016 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Magic Monteiro Lands Portugal WTCC Pole with his Honda
Tiago Monteiro ended his DHL pole position drought in style by edging a dramatic qualifying shootout on the streets of Vila Real this afternoon. It was the Honda driver’s first top grid spot in the FIA World Touring Car Championship for six years and proved hugely popular among the thousands of home fans basking in the Portuguese sunshine.
As the fifth-fastest driver in Q2, Monteiro was the first to post a time in Q3, and his lap of 1m56.633s would prove to be unbeatable over the challenging 4.785-kilometre track, despite Yvan Muller’s best efforts. Citroën’s four-time world champion was the only driver to come close to beating Monteiro, ultimately coming up 0.109s short and having to settle for second.
“It’s a wonderful day and a very good performance from us,” said Monteiro. “I knew it was a good lap, it was a very good first sector and a decent last sector, but I made a mistake in the top chicane and I really lost quite a lot of time so I was not confident to be honest when I came back to the pits. I did the best I could and I pushed like crazy but then it was just a waiting game to see who could pass in front.”
Muller was on course to snatch pole from Monteiro only for a slower final sector to deny him. “Unfortunately at one chicane I hit a bit too hard the front wheel and the wheel bent when it touched and that made a vibration. When you have to drive 240kph between the barriers you don’t want this kind of vibration so I was a bit under for the last sector and that’s cost me.”
Norbert Michelisz took third for Honda, 1.7s down after making contact with a barrier. Team-mate Rob Huff was 2.3s away from pole after a lock-up in sector one. Championship leader and Muller’s Citroën team-mate José María López made a rare mistake on the challenging street circuit, sliding down an escape road and not completing his lap after he reported “losing the rear of the car”. The Argentine was chasing his fifth DHL Pole Position Award of 2016 but will start on the third row of the grid for Sunday’s Main Race.
Thed Björk took a strong sixth in his Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo, narrowly missing out on a place in Q3. He will be followed on the Main Race grid by the top WTCC Trophy drivers Mehdi Bennani and Tom Chilton, lead LADA racer Nicky Catsburg and Chevrolet privateer Tom Coronel, whose capture of P10 will put him on pole for the reverse-grid Opening Race.