Photo: Citroën Racing

José María López leads Citroën 1-2-3 in Marrakech qualifying

Citroën Racing’s José María López claimed pole position for the first round of the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship, outpacing team-mate Yvan Muller who made a mistake in the third sector, but both were under threat until the final corners by rally convert Sébastien Loeb.

In the 20 minute Q1 section, Yvan Muller set the fastest lap of 1:44.182 as his first flying run, then improving with a time 1:43.824 on his second lap to secure the fastest time ahead of Citroën Racing team-mates Sébastien Loeb and José María López.

Tom Chilton was forced to abort his first run after an error, but went out again mid-way through the session to put his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet fourth fastest ahead of the Campos Chevrolet of Hugo Valente.

Tom Coronel was sixth in the repaired ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet, with Dusan Borkovic making a late improvement to go seventh, knocking Lada’s Rob Huff out of the top 12 which progress to Q2.

The top seven all felt their times were safe enough to not have to go out for a second run, but from Proteam Honda’s Mehdi Bennani downwards all were out on circuit again in the closing minutes, with LADA Sport Lukoil’s James Thompson in 12th and under threat of dropping out before Q2.

A quick flyer from Thompson put him ahead of René Münnich’s Chevrolet, just before the session was red flagged after Petr Fulín crashed his Campos Racing SEAT León at the second chicane, and with just seconds on the clock the session wasn’t resumed.

This saw the two TC1 Ladas of Rob Huff and Mikhail Kozlovskiy not make the cut, in addition to the four TC2T class cars of which Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Franz Engstler was the fastest. Gianni Morbidelli’s Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet and Gabriele Tarquini’s Honda didn’t take part in the session due to the incident in FP2, with Tarquini missing the rest of the weekend due to the damage to his car.

In Q2, it was Sébastien Loeb’s turn to set the pace, while team-mate López was just four-thousandths of a second slower in the sister C-Elysée.

Dusan Borkovic was the fastest of the Chevrolets ahead of Tom Chilton, with René Munnich setting the sixth fastest time in his Chevrolet Cruze.

Campos Racing’s Hugo Valente had a problem on his first run, but rejoined the circuit too late to set a second time, and so will start 12th for both races.

With Tom Coronel finishing tenth, the Dutchman has secured pole position for the reversed grid second race and will start ahead of Mehdi Bennani’s Honda.

The top five cars then took part in the new one lap qualifying format, with ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Chilton heading out first. Then, Campos Racing released Dusan Borkovic before Tom Chilton had begun his flying lap, in breach of the regulations and subsequently received a black flag.

Chilton set a time of 1:44.864, while Yvan Muller’s Citroën was released with Borkovic’s car ordered to return to the pits.

Yvan Muller made a mistake at the second chicane, but still set a time of 1:43.748. José María López followed next, and though he was slower in the first two sectors, was able to capitalise on Muller’s mistake in the third and go faster with a time of 1:43.730.

Sébastien Loeb’s turn was next. The nine-time World Rally champion was faster than López in the first two sectors, but dropped time in the third sector and dropped behind López and Muller.