Gordon Shedden sensationally scored his first DHL Pole Position in Sunday qualifying at WTCR Race of China-Wuhan as the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO continued to thrill at the Wuhan International Street Circuit.
The Scot jumped to the top of the times at the end of Q2 in his Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS 3 LMS and carried that form into the one-shot Q3 session to beat Audi Sport Team Comtoyou’s Frédéric Vervisch to the DHL pole.
“Absolutely fantastic!” said a delighted Shedden, who scored his first WTCR OSCARO podium finish in Race 1 on Saturday. “After the podium yesterday I had to keep up that momentum. The Q2 lap was ridiculous! And I haven’t done many Q3 shoot-outs this year… so I needed a solid lap. Now I need to lead from the start and win the race!”
Vernay on top in Qualifying Q1
Shedden’s team-mate, Race 1 winner Jean-Karl Vernay, set the pace in the 30-minute Q1 session, ahead of the impressive Ma Qing Hua from China and Aurélien Panis. The dash to make the top 12, ensuring progression through to Q2, left a number of major names disappointed as tiny margins separated the whole field.
All six Audi RS 3 LMS entries were among the leading dozen in Q1, which included representatives of six of WTCR OSCARO’s seven customer racing brands. Notable qualifiers included Kevin Ceccon’s Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR in sixth and Mehdi Bennani’s Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR in P11. Pepe Oriola – second in Race 1 on Saturday – just made the cut in P12 in his Team OSCARO by Campos Racing Cupra TCR.
Those to miss out included Rob Huff’s Golf in P13 and the Hyundai i30 N TCRs of YMR duo Thed Björk and Yvan Muller (P14 and P15 respectively) and WTCR OSCARO points leader Gabriele Tarquini in P16. Double DTM champion Timo Scheider was in P18, Yann Ehrlacher – fourth on the road in Race 1 before being penalised for a jumped start – only P21 and Nobert Michelisz down in P22 as the Hungarian’s difficult weekend continued.
Shedden makes his move with Q2 best
Shedden got the better of team-mate Vernay in Q2 to top the times, as the Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team duo were joined by Comtoyou drivers Vervisch and Denis Dupont, with Esteban Guerrieri (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR) rounding out the top five.
Comtoyou’s Nathanaël Berthon just missed out on a Q3 place by 0.044s in sixth, while Oriola once again gave everything to make the cut – this time overstepping the mark and hitting the wall on his final lap. “It’s really close and you have to give every single metre – and I did that on the final lap,” he said.
For the second week in succession, Bennani claimed the reverse-grid Race 2 DHL Pole Position by ending up P10 in the session. He is set to be joined on the front row by Chinese crowd favourite Ma Qing Hua, who was ninth in his Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda. Aurélien Comte was eighth quickest in Q2 and is due to line up on the second row in his DG Sport Compétition PEUGEOT 308TCR beside Oriola. Comtoyou’s Panis qualified in P11, with Ceccon the last of the 12 – just 0.835s from Shedden’s benchmark.
Guerrieri goes first in Q3 but Shedden goes fastest
Guerrieri kicked off the Q3 one-at-a-time shootout, setting a target time of 1m23.744s. Belgian Dupont was next in his Comtoyou Audi and was comfortably faster – by 0.785s.
Team-mate and countryman Vervisch then lowered the mark further to go quickest by 0.134s, with just the Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team duo left to run. Vernay was first up as the Frenchman made a bid for his second DHL Pole Position of the weekend. But the Audi crossed the line 0.197s down on Vervisch and with a time also slower than Dupont’s.
Now it was Shedden’s turn – and the Scot pulled out a great lap to snatch the DHL Pole from Vervisch by a scant 0.049s. It means he and Vervisch are due to share the front row for Race 3, ahead of Dupont and Vernay.
Race 2 of WTCR Race of China-Wuhan will take place at 15h45 local time over 18 laps, with Race 3 scheduled to start at 17h05 over 21 laps. Click here to find out where to watch the action.
Gordon Shedden (Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team, Audi RS 3 LMS)
DHL Pole Position (1m22.776s)
“It’s absolutely fantastic. After yesterday’s podium it was really important to stay on the momentum. The lap in Q2 was ridiculous and in Q3 the car felt fantastic. I haven’t done too many Q3s this year so it was just about doing a good solid lap and it was just enough in the end. And there were four Audis in the top. Now I want to win, I took my first podium yesterday and starting from pole position on a street circuit is the best place. I intend to do the best I can and obviously the win is the target. I’m an okay starter [traditionally], I made a good start yesterday but round here it’s close, it’s tight and I will just need to do the best I can. It’s a great boost but we’ve got to convert now. There are only five points for qualifying, it’s fantastic to be fastest and now I look forward to two races for the rest of the day.”
Frédéric Vervisch (Audi Sport Team Comtoyou, Audi RS 3 LMS) P2 (1m22.825s)
“I was watching and it was exciting. I thought I had a chance so I’m quite disappointed because I didn’t think it was possible to push so much in the last sector. Anyway we did a great job. Since free practice I cannot say we struggled but it seems a bit like we lost our great pace, but during the qualifying we improved again and for sure P2 is better than yesterday. I am happy with that and hopefully we will get some good points again. Yesterday [Shedden] and me were in each other’s neighbourhood on the grid and our starts were more or less the same. Again I’m on the dirty side. But I will try for sure, I will push and I want that first victory. I will do everything I can.”
Denis Dupont (Audi Sport Team Comtoyou, Audi RS 3 LMS) P3 (1m22.959s)
“We’ve got a strong car since Ningbo and here we just went on. It was not so easy to get to Q3 but we did it. I did an [okay] middle first sector but the second second and third sector were very competitive and that’s why we came to be P3 now. It’s really nice [to be in the one-lap shootout] and on such a track it’s a bit easier to warm up the tyres because in Q1 and Q2 you always need to look in your mirrors to try to not block the other ones. But this time I really got the opportunity to warm up my tyres so it’s really nice and for a driver the feeling is amazing.”
Mehdi Bennani (Sébastien Loeb Racing, Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR)
DHL Pole Position Race 2 (1m23.148s)
“It’s not bad. We know we don’t have the pace to be fighting for the top five but it’s even good just to be in Q2 because my team-mate was not and we already see he wins here last year in CTCC. I drive on the limit, it was working and I was lucky enough to pass around the walls and the tyres and now we focus on the races. I’m quite happy about what happened because it was very tricky and we only had one push on new tyres so it means we had to be ready to fight.”