Photo: Citroën Racing

José María López claims pole at home in Termas de Río Hondo

Citroën Total WTCC’s José María López claimed a comfortable pole position ahead of team-mate Yvan Muller at Termas de Río Hondo, almost half a second clear of his title rival, while there was excitement as Lada claimed their best qualifying result of the season with Rob Huff tenth, which also in secures the provisional pole position for the 2012 champion for race two.

In the first part of qualifying, it was Zengõ Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz who set the overall pace, while the two factory Hondas of Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro left it to the final moments to set their times.

With the Chevrolets of Dusan Borkovic and Gianni Morbidelli struggling, they were under threat from the renewed pace of the Lada team, with Lada team-mates Rob Huff and James Thompson battling out to get into Q2. Huff was dropped out following a late improvement by Thompson, but could only get up to 12th, but Huff’s final run managed to get the position back ahead of his team-mate and into the second part of qualifying.

In Q2, the Citroëns of Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller jumped straight to the top of the time sheets and sat out the rest of the session confident that their pace would get them into Q3. A scramble took place amongst the other drivers for the final spots, with José María López also involved having aborted his first run, but setting the best time on his second lap with a time of 1:43.813.

As the remaining drivers crossed the line, the three Citroëns stayed at the top, while Norbert Michelisz in the independent Honda, and Tiago Monteiro in the factory Honda, also made it into the top five to join Citroën in the top five shootout.

Missing out was ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Chilton, who went sixth fastest on his final flying lap, with Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini seventh ahead of the Proteam Honda of Mehdi Bennani.

Campos Racing’s Hugo Valente wound up ninth, while LADA Sport Lukoil’s Rob Huff went out for a single lap with just over two minutes to go and went tenth quickest, ahead of the repaired Chevrolet of Tom Coronel and former team-mate René Münnich, and in doing so grabbed pole position for the second race tomorrow.

In the top five shootout, a mistake from Honda’s Tiago Monteiro at Turn 9 meant fifth was the best he could manage, while Michelisz set a competitive time in his Honda Civic in the low 1:44s.

The pole position shootout was always going to be between the three Citroëns however, with Yvan Muller setting the first target, and while Sébastien Loeb was faster than Muller in the first sector, he dropped back in sectors and two and three and fell behind Muller by just over a tenth of a second by the end of the lap.

López however was unstoppable on his run, faster in the first and third sectors to outqualify Muller by 0.428, securing five points in the championship as a result, and extending his lead over Yvan Muller to exactly 40 points.

The first race of the day takes place tomorrow at 14:15 ART, 19:15 CET.