José María López caps off season with pole in Macau
Citroën Total WTCC’s José María López has claimed pole position on his first outing at the Guia Race of Macau, leading a Citroën 1-2-3 in qualifying with Sébastien Loeb second on the grid and Yvan Muller third, with Norbert Michelisz the top Honda in fourth and Tom Coronel taking fifth in his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet.
In Q1, the session was red flagged after just five minutes when Campos Racing’s Pepe Oriola crashed and spun at Maternity, blocking the track behind him. With several cars trapped behind, the session was immediately red flagged and whole field returned to the pits without having set a lap time.
When the session resumed, Yvan Muller was quick to jump to the top of the time sheets in the Citroën C-Elysée, with Sébastien Loeb then going over half a second quicker to go fastest overall with a time of 2:26.036. After an aborted first run, José María López went second fastest, with the three full-time Citroëns now safely through to Q2.
Norbert Michelisz became the first driver to break into the 2:25s and went fastest in his Zengõ Motorsport Honda, while late improvements from the Chevrolets of Tom Chilton and Gianni Morbidelli knocked the Lada of James Thompson and the Proteam Honda of Mehdi Benanni out of the top ten.
Ma Qing Hua was on a fast lap in the #33 Citroën before he slid wide in the esses, with James Thompson able to make his way past but with the loss of some time. With two minutes to go, Mikhail Kozlovskiy spun his Lada Granta at the exit of Lisboa and blocked the track, bringing out the red flag and the end of Q1, with Bennani and Thompson now unable to fight back and get into the top 12.
In the second part of qualifying, López rolled out a time of 2:24.539 to go fastest, with Citroën team-mates Loeb and Muller close behind. Sébastien Loeb also broke into the 2:24s and went fastest at the end of the session, only for the spot to be taken back by López.
Gianni Morbidelli fell out of the top ten, and ran out of time to get back on track to improve his run. Ma Qing Hua had a bad second sector, and was in tenth as the chequered flag waved, but was knocked out by Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini who had aborted his first run.
As a result, Hugo Valente finished tenth and will provisionally line-up on pole position for the reversed grid second race in the Campos Racing Chevrolet Cruze, with ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet driver Tom Chilton in second and Lada Sport’s Rob Huff in third position.
In the one-lap shootout, Norbert Michelisz set the first target time of 2:25.327. ROAL’s Tom Coronel was fastest than Michelisz in the first sector, but hit the wall up the hill and damaged the front-left and aborted his lap, meaning he will start fifth for the first race.
Yvan Muller was next up and went fastest in his Citroën, breaking into the 2:24s for the first time with a lap time of 2:24.779. Sébastien Loeb went fastest still, half a second up on Muller by the second sector, but was 0.257 ahead by the line, losing time comparively in sector two.
José María López was last out and set the best time of the weekend, and a new lap record at Macau of 2:24.294, two-tenths ahead of Loeb and almost half a second ahead of Muller, taking his seventh pole position of the season.
The next track activity is the first race, which gets underway at 11:15 CST on Sunday.