Tom Chilton
Tom Chilton. Photo by Mike Doran

An excited TOM CHILTON/No.23 RML Chevrolet Cruze won his first-ever pole position for FIA World Touring Car Championship, with a lap of 1:45.583/85.420 mph/137.47 kph at Sonoma Raceway. The pole qualifying record of 1:45.232 was set last year by ALAIN MENU/Chevrolet, who isn’t racing this year.

Chilton turned his time on his last flying lap which ended after the checkered flag had flown in Q2. Up to that point, his RML teammate, YVAN MULLER/No.12 Chevrolet Cruze, had been fastest – in Q1 and Q2. The two teammates joked about what would happen going into Turn Two on the first race lap.

Yvan Muller & Tom Chilton
Yvan Muller & Tom Chilton

Third through fifth were TIAGO MONTEIRO/No.18 Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda Civic WTCC-the only non-Chevrolet in the top five; PEPE ORIOLA/No.74 Tuenti Racing Team Chevrolet Cruze, and ALEX MacDOWALL/No.9 bamboo-engineering Chevrolet Cruze with his maiden pole position for the Yokohama Trophy for independents.

Chilton said “I love this circuit and I’m in a car that can win. It was a scary lap, perfect and enjoyable to drive.” Earlier, in Q1, he dodged the bullet with a spin cresting Turn One’s hill into Turn Two. He slid across the dry grass and stopped short of the tire wall. “So I won’t be doing that again soon.”

Chilton broke his teammate’s streak of five consecutive pole positions. Muller said “I’m Pleased that streak was broken by Tom. I thought I had a good chance for my second pole. My car is heavier, with ballast, and it’s pretty much the same going up hill and down hill. I’m very pleased, honestly.”

Monteiro said he had problems in first session. “I hope to have an even wider car than Chilton. Starting on pole position here at Sonoma is a big, big deal.”

MacDowell said “It’s tough to get that perfect lap, so this is a good result. Hope it translate to my first Yokohama Trophy victory.”

Alex MacDowell, Yvan Muller, Tom Chilton & Tiago Monteiro
Alex MacDowall, Yvan Muller, Tom Chilton & Tiago Monteiro

The FIA Stewards were busy after Qualifying. DANIEL FAUSEL of Costa Rica is the Chairman, working with DANIEL COEN of Switzerland. In each country the local FIA ASN assigns a steward. In the US, the FIA ASN is ACCUS and TIM MAYER is Sonoma’s ASN Steward.

After Qualifying, the Zengo Motorsport team applied to the FIA Stewards on behalf of driver NORBERT MICHELISZ to change the engine in his Honda Civic WTCC. Permission granted with a grid penalty putting him to the back of the field for Race One.

Three other drivers will be joining Michelisz at the back of the grid for their race cars failing the post-qualifying scrutineering “because their driver’s seats were set back beyond the limits fixed by the Safety Prescription of the technical regulations: Article 263.6.2 of the Appendix J. They lost their qualifying times and will start at the back for both races. MICHEL NYKJER/No. Chevrolet Cruze, HUGO VALENTE/No. SEAT Leon, and FERNANDO MONJE/No. SEAT Leon – will line up in that order, based on Q1.

Three other drivers ran afoul of the Stewards. Two received a formal reprimand imposed “considering the special specific situation in Sonoma.” They were STEFANO D’ASTE/No.26 PB Raving BMW 320 and MacDowall, for car stopping in front of garage on way to parc ferme. TOM CORONEL/No.15 ROAL Motorsport BMW received no further action after meeting with Stewards – regarding his not respecting parc ferme rules during Q2 (in which he did not participate.)

The way WTCC qualifying works this year is that all 24 drivers run the first twenty-minute session. The top 12 from that group proceed to the second, ten-minute session. That sets the grid for Race One. For Race Two, the top ten qualifiers from Saturday’s Q2 are reversed. Thusly, Chilton will start Race Two in P10, and GABRIELE TARQUINI/No.3 Castrol Honda WTC Team will be on pole for that race.

Race One will have a rolling start, while Race Two will have a standing start.

To further mix-up things, in 2014, the top five drivers from Q2 will advance to Q3 and get one flying lap to set the top five on the grid for Race One.

The temperature was 95F/35C with almost no breeze. The track was a scorching 117F/47C.

The two WTCC Qualifying sessions were back to back, with only five minutes between sessions.

Last year Muller won Race One and Huff won Race Two, with Muller turning the fastest lap in both races.

Prior to Saturday’s on-track sessions, all 24 cars were seen and passed by Scrutineering.

Muller was able to produce an extension to the homologation form issued at the previous race at Termas de Rio Hondo, having to do with reverse gear ratio. Basically, what this means is that at the race in Argentina, the reverse gear ratio which was seen in Scrutineering was not listed in the homologation. The Stewards penalized Muller, and then held a hearing and suspended the penalty. It was decided the problem was an administrative error, and all the Chevrolets had the same part. For this weekend’s race, an extension to the homologation was presented and approved.

The issuing of wet-weather tires to the WTCC teams is nothing more than wishful thinking. The Sonoma area is so dry and parched from lack of rain, that voluntary water rationing is imposed in Sonoma County this weekend.

In Qualifying, TOM CORONEL/No.15 ROAL Motorsport BMW 320 TC had an in-car camera with a camera angle which prominently displayed his sign “Tom Coronel – Eat My Dust!” Others with onboards were Chilton, Muller, Tarquini, MICHELE NYKJAER/No.17 Nika Racing Chevrolet Cruze, and JAMES THOMPSON/10 LADA Sport Lukoil LADA Granta.

Regarding Sunday’s forecast for even hotter weather and how it will affect tire wear, Chilton said “For sure, it will be hard on tires. We have experience racing in hot conditions. I hope I can make a wide car so I can get my first win.

“Everyone will hurt and suffer from Sunday’s even hotter temperatures. The tires and cars haven’t changed from last year. Maybe this year there is more rubber down. The cars are brakig a lot later this year. You can gain seconds that way. You’ll need lots of cameras down by Seven and Seven B. That will be exciting.”

The races will be aired on CBS Sports Network with a same-day broadcast starting at 2pm local time/5pm ET.

Parc Ferme
Parc Ferme