Tom Chilton takes shock pole in Beijing qualifying session

ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Chilton has claimed his first pole position of the season at the Beijing Goldenport circuit, outpacing Gabriele Tarquini in the one-lap shootout format, while Yvan Muller was the best placed Citroën in third, starting one spot ahead of his title rival and team-mate José María López.

The Sunday morning qualifying session began in dry conditions, but with the first 20 minute segment twice held up by two red flag stoppages. The first was when Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Filipe de Souza slid wide at the final corner and beached his BMW 320 TC in the gravel trap, which ensured the Macanese driver will start from last position on his WTCC return.

The second red flag came just three minutes from the end, with Campos Racing’s Dusan Borkovic spun around and ripped the front bumper off of his Chevrolet RML Cruze, and found himself qualifying in 16th position.

There was a last minute dash when the session resumed, which saw Tom Coronel lucky enough to escape the drop zone in his ROAL Chevrolet and go 11th fastest, dropping the Proteam Honda of Mehdi Bennani into the drop zone. Also failing to improve was local driver Ma Qing Hua, who was only 13th in his Citroën C-Elysée WTCC.

Tiago Monteiro continued his strong showing from Saturday in Q1, and set the fastest time in his Honda Civic ahead of Tom Chilton’s Chevrolet, with Yvan Muller third in his Citroën.

In Q2, the field split themselves into two packs, with ten cars heading out as the green lights came on, but with Honda’s Tiago Monteiro and Campos’ Hugo Valente waiting until the first runs were complete. It didn’t play out in either driver’s favour, with Monteiro and Valente qualifying 11th and 12th, which is where they will start both of this afternoon’s races.

Rob Huff was perfectly positioned in his Lada Granta 1.6T for the second race in succession for the reversed grid for race two, qualifying tenth and therefore on pole for race two, while team-mate James Thompson enjoyed his best qualifying performance of the season with seventh overall, which translates to third for race two.

José María López set a time of 1:04.347 to go fastest ahead of Yvan Muller in Q2, with the Honda of Gabriele Tarquini and the two Chevrolets of Gianni Morbidelli and Tom Chilton also making the top five shootout.

What was unexpected perhaps was Tom Chilton’s lap in the shootout, producing the best lap of the weekend with a time of 1:04.321, at a circuit where the Chevrolets have struggled comparatively so far. Although Gianni Morbidelli was slightly faster in the first sector, he couldn’t replicate Chilton’s pace around the rest of the lap and would qualify fifth.

Gabriele Tarquini was fast in his Honda, only 32-thousandths of a second behind Chilton, but then the two Citroëns made their runs and surprised as they had no more pace to offer from what they’d shown in Q2, with Yvan Muller going third fastest and José María López fourth, with a lap much slower than that he’d produced in Q2.

As a result, Tom Chilton will line-up on pole position for the first time since Sonoma in 2013, with Gabriele Tarquini alongside for Honda, with Citroën failing to qualify on the front row for the first time this season.

The first race of the day gets underway at 14:50 CST (8:50 CET).