Photo: Citroën Racing

Yvan Muller leads a Citroën top three in Spa qualifying

Four-time champion Yvan Muller has taken pole position at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of Sébastien Loeb, with championship leader José María López third in a weekend which is being dominated by the French manufacturer on their close-to-home turf.

In the first part of qualifying, Citroën showed their true colours with both Yvan Muller and José María López both setting times in the 2:23s and were safely through into the second part of qualifying after their first laps were set. The main theme of the qualifying segment became the pace of Citroën’s new driver and Moscow race winner Ma Qing Hua, who was suffering with a balance issue in his C-Elysée.

The Chinese driver dropped out of the top 12 when Hugo Valente became the final driver to set his fast lap in the session, with the Frenchman going fourth fastest in the Campos Racing Chevrolet Cruze.

Ma was unable to improve his time, and would go on to lose a further position after a late improvement from Lada’s Rob Huff, who outqualified the Citroën driver by two-thousandths of a second to go 13th. The 2012 champion will now head to the Nürburgring to compete in the 24 hour event before returning for the two races tomorrow afternoon.

In Q2, all three Citroëns set times in the 2:23s with López faster than Muller with Loeb in third.

The two drivers that didn’t get into the top ten were Campos Racing’s Dusan Borkovic and the ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet of Tom Chilton. Neither driver was able to improve on their second lap either, and so will start both races from 11th and 12th.

Münnich Motorsport’s Gianni Morbidelli will start from tenth position and so secures the reverse grid pole position in his Chevrolet Cruze, where he will start ahead of the Proteam Honda Civic of Mehdi Bennani.

In the final shootout, Gabriele Tarquini set the first target time in his Honda which was quickly toppled in turn by the next few drivers, with Hugo Valente then going faster than Tarquini, shortly followed by Citroën’s Sébastien Loeb, who battled back after setting a slow first sector.

Yvan Muller’s lap time of 2:23.497 stood for pole position, even though José María López had set a better time in the second part of qualifying with a 2:23.204.

Unfortunately the Argentinian was unable to replicate that lap, without the tow available in the shootout, and went third fastest behind his two French team-mates, losing two points in the process of his championship lead to Yvan Muller.

The first race takes place at 12:45 CET on Sunday.