Thed Björk will start from the DHL Pole Position for Race 1 at WTCR Race of China-Ningbo after setting a scorching pace in qualifying this morning as less than one second covered the top 18.

The Swede, who also topped both free practice sessions on Friday, set a time of 1m51.028s to beat Frédéric Vervisch’s Audi Sport Team Comtoyou Audi RS 3 LMS to top spot at the Ningbo International Speedpark by just 0.053s in his YMR Hyundai i30 N TCR.

“Fantastic – I had to nail that lap,” said a satisfied Björk. “Vervisch was close, so I’m happy to be on top. I feel confident. It will be a great race. The track is so technical and it’s so easy to overstep and make a mistake.”

Vervisch, still chasing his first pole in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO, hit the top of the times halfway through the session. But once Björk had gone quicker the Belgian couldn’t attack for first place in a final run after damaging his radiator. But his time was good enough to ensure a front-row grid slot for Race 1.

BRC Racing Team duo Norbert Michelisz and WTCR OSCARO points leader Gabriele Tarquini will start from the second row after going P3 and P4 respectively in their Hyundais. ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri was next in his Honda Civic Type R TCR, ahead of Nathanaël Berthon who maintained his strong form from practice in his Comtoyou Racing Audi.

Another to keep up their promising turn of speed from practice was Zengo Motorsport’s Zsolt Szabó, who was an excellent P7 in his Cupra TCR, ahead of Comtoyou’s Denis Dupont.

Rob Huff and Mehdi Bennani completed the top 10 in their Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCRs, ahead of Pepe Oriola (Team OSCARO by Campos Racing Cupra), Yann Ehrlacher and Yvan Muller, who was 0.712s off the pace of his DHL Pole-winning team-mate Björk.

China’s Ma Qing Hua qualified in P17 for his first WTCR event in his Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda, while double DTM champion Timo Scheider – who is getting his first experience of front-wheel drive – was two places behind him in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport entry.

As in practice, Kevin Ceccon was the fastest of the two Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCRs in P18, while the DG Sport Compétition PEUGEOT 308TCRs of Mato Homola and Aurélien Comte propped up the times following precautionary engine changes. Homola stopped on track late on to bring the session to a close under red flags with just 35 seconds remaining on the clock as light rain fell.

Race 1 at WTCR Race of China-Ningbo takes place at 15h30 local time.

Top three driver quotes:

Thed Björk (YMR, Hyundai i30 N TCR): DHL Pole Position (1m51.028s)
“It feels really good. Vervisch was close, so I’m happy to be on top. We went a little bit out of the window with the car in the first attempt in qualifying, it took until my third attempt to nail it and even then I did not make the perfect lap because the track is so difficult and you need to get all the small pieces together. That’s what happened in that third attempt, I get it back in the window like I had it yesterday and I’m really happy. I feel confident. It will be a great race. The track is so technical and it’s so easy to overstep and make a mistake.”

Frédéric Vervisch (Audi Sport Team Comtoyou, Audi RS 3 LMS): P2 (1m51.081s)
“Really good, it was really close and I don’t think Hyundai expected us to be there. We had a third shot [at pole] but the radiator broke so I am very happy to be on the front row and let’s see what we can do in the race. We probably hit the kerb in the wrong way, you have to take a lot of kerb here so I will have to be more careful in the race. My starts are reasonable but the front row is always a bit different. We have a chance but we all know the Honda is very strong on the race pace so it will be a big challenge for me.”

Norbert Michelisz (BRC Racing Team, Hyundai i30 N TCR): P3 (1m51.157s)
“My qualifying was reasonable. It was one of these sessions where I didn’t manage to fit one lap together, I think it was up to me not to finish on the first row but starting from P3 you have a good shot, even at winning the race. My aim is to have a good launch and see what my chances are. This circuit is really good for racing and overtaking. You have a couple of hairpins, you have a wide circuit so you can variate your lines into the corners, which gives you a good opportunity to attack. I expect a good show.”