Norbert Michelisz will start on pole for the 2009 European Touring Car Cup, after the Hungarian SEAT Leon Eurocup champion beat off the more established names in the field.
The qualifying session for the now annual event took place under difficult conditions as the weather at the Braga track in Portugal started wet, but dried out continuously as the field of S2000, Production and S1600 cars ran in search of the best starting position.
This, of course, meant that the top times were set late in the session, with the provisional pole changing 15 times during the 30 minute session.
But 25 year-old Michelisz was a constant throughout as, driving the only diesel powered car in the field, he bettered his lap time and again.
First he had to beat defending champion Michel NykjÃ¦r, then Touring Car all-rounder James Thompson, then WTCC privateer Franz Engstler. Finally as the track dried out Portuguese driver Duarte Felix da Costa took the top spot in his Chevrolet Lacetti, before Engstler, driving a BMW 320si similar to that he enters in the WTCC, looked to have wrapped up the pole position.
That was before, with seconds to spare, Michelisz clocked a lap of 1:24.821, to beat the German by only 0.077 seconds.
“These were not easy conditions to drive the turbo diesel car. Before the qualifying I was hoping for a dry track, but it's ok, I managed to claim pole position and I'm veryhappy,” he said. “Honestly I did not expect such a result.”
“I am very happy with my second place. My team did a very good job in setting up the car. I was able to set some fast laps, and the car is also very consistent,” said Engstler. “But I wish to congratulate Michelisz. It is great to see some young drivers like him and da Costa being so quick in such a difficult category. Anyway, I'm an old driver and I'm here to have fun. So I will try to beat them tomorrow!”
Da Costa's time (1:24.952) was eventually good enough for third, one place ahead of his Bamboo Engineering teammate Harry Vaulkhard. Thompson, driving a Honda Accord finished the session sixth while NykjÃ¦r, who was challenging for the pole with only five minutes left ended eighth of the eleven driver to set a time, a full 1.3 seconds off the pole time.
Former Volvo and Vauxhall BTCC driver Vincent Rademacker did not even make it onto the track, with his team trying to fix an electrical problem on his Lacetti that stops the Belgian from starting the car.
Photo credit: ETCC