Photo: Citroën Racing

José María López claims pole in Russia ahead of Tarquini

Citroën’s José María López has claimed his third pole position of the season at the Moscow Raceway, outpacing the two Hondas of Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro in the top five qualifying shootout, while title rival Yvan Muller just missed out on the top five shootout in sixth.

The Hondas showed increased pace over practice from the start of qualifying, with Gabriele Tarquini the first driver to break into the 1:38s with a time of 1:38.754, ahead of team-mate Tiago Monteiro, leading the first part of qualifying.

It was close in the mid-field, with drivers scrambling not to miss the top 12 cut-off for Q2. The three Ladas briefly occupied positions in the top ten, but ultimately dropped down to their somewhat regular spots for 14th and on, with Rob Huff leading Mikhail Kozlovskiy and James Thompson, with Thompson having a slide on his final run.

Similar slides ruined the session for the Chevrolets of Tom Coronel and Gianni Morbidelli. Morbidelli had set a fast first sector in his Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet, but then slid wide through the gravel and was forced to pit. Later rejoining the session for a final run, a lock-up at Turn 1 and a damaged front-splitter meant the Italian, who claimed pole position two weeks ago in Austria, qualified in 17th place for both of tomorrow’s races.

Tom Coronel, in the ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet, was in 12th in the final part of qualifying and under threat as René Münnich was on a faster lap. Under pressure, Coronel slid while trying to improve, and with Münnich getting into the top ten, Coronel was demoted to 13th, where he’ll start the two races on Sunday.

In Q2, Gabriele Tarquini led for the first half, before a quick lap from José María López put him at the top of the time sheets.

Dusan Borkovic was unable to set a lap, with the team working on the front-right suspension at the start of the session, and when Borkovic went out to do his only timed run, there was still an issue, and the Serbian returned to the pits and so qualified in 12th position.

Tiago Monteiro left it to the last second to set a time, which knocked René Münnich down to 11th, and critically Yvan Muller down to sixth, meaning the Frenchman, who was fastest in both practice sessions, was out in Q2 and will start sixth for the first race tomorrow, and fifth for the reversed grid second race.

Hugo Valente found himself tenth, and so will benefit from the reversed grid pole position, with Citroën’s new driver Ma Qing Hua alongside him on the front row.

In the final qualifying shootout, Monteiro set a good benchmark with neither the ROAL Chevrolet of Tom Chilton or the Citroën of Sébastien Loeb were able to better, but it wasn’t good enough to hold off Gabriele Tarquini, who wrung another 1:38 lap out of his Honda Civic to take provisional pole, but both were soon bettered by José María López’s Citroën, who claimed his third pole and grabbed the additional five points that come with it.

“I can’t believe it, I’m so happy,” said López. “It’s a really difficult track. I struggled so much in FP1 and FP2. I think it’s the first time all year I wasn’t fighting for the top times, plus Yvan was doing really well. But I told myself that’s normal. So far it’s been quite not normal that I’ve been adapting really quick to the circuits, I learned a lot from him and felt so confident with the car in qualifying.”

The first race on Sunday takes place at 13:15 MSK (11:15 CET).