Yvan Muller claimed his first pole position of the season by topping qualifying at WTCR Race of France at Circuit Pau-Arnos.
The home hero proved fastest in the Q3 shootout in his Cyan Racing Lynk & Co to head fellow Frenchman Jean-Karl Vernay in his Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Elantra N TCR.

“Yes, the first pole position of the season,” said Muller. “It was a good lap. I think it could have been better, but we always think that!”

The Q1 session was interrupted by a red flag after nearly six of its 20 minutes when Gilles Magnus lost 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.

Right at the end of the session Ehrlacher jumped to the top of the times with a great effort of 1m18.820s to knock Norbert Michelisz down to second. Jean-Karl 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 miss 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 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 team-mate Girolami, Tarquini and Björk. Vervisch qualified in P10, which means he will start the partially revsered-grid Race 2 from pole position.

“I cannot be too disappointed,” said Guerrieri who arrived in France 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 was the first to run in the one-at-a-time Q3 shootout. The home hero 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.”

The first of the Hyundais to run was Vernay’s. 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. “Quallie was OK,” 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 of WTCR Race of France will start on Sunday at 10h15 local time.
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The post WTCR Qualifying flash: Muller fastest to claim first pole position of 2021 appeared first on FIA WTCR | World Touring Car Cup.
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