Qualifying for the World Touring Car Championship Race of Austria ended in bizarre circumstances and widespread penalties for the leading contenders.
RML Chevrolet drivers Yvan Muller and Tom Chilton held the top two spots after the first runs in the decisive Q2 session, ahead of All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport SEAT driver Rob Huff.
The cars emerged for a second run in the final minutes of the session, but with nobody willing to lead the queue on a Salzburgring circuit where slipstream is so important, they slowed to a crawl.
Chilton headed the pack but was happy enough with second place and didn’t need to do another lap unless there was a threat he would be dislodged. Everyone else preferred to stay behind at snail’s pace, and so nobody got to the line to start their lap until after the checkered flag.
The stewards were unimpressed with the drivers and investigated 14 of them – there had been issues in Q1 as well – and handed out a raft of fines and grid penalties for those guilty of “unsporting behaviour on the track which damages the image of motorsport in general and in particular the FIA WTCC,” citing breaches of Appendix L, Chapter 4, Article 2e and Article 151 of the International Sporting Code.
Michel Nykjaer, who had been fifth fastest, avoided any investigation and has been elevated to pole position for the first of Sunday’s races. The rest of the grid is only set to be confirmed in the morning, depending on the order in which the penalties are applied.
Muller and Chilton were handed 12-place grid drops for the first race, with Huff getting ten places and fourth-fastest Alex MacDowall eight.
Gabriele Tarquini was handed 12 places for each race having gone slow in Q1 as well, but he and fellow Honda drivers Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz were then excluded from qualifying after their rear wings failed to conform to the regulations and they will have to start both races from the back.
Other than Nykjaer, James Nash was the only one of the 12 drivers who got into Q2 that avoided a penalty. He was tenth fastest.