José María López takes sensational pole at home in Argentina

Citroën Total WTCC’s José María López started the defence of his world title in style, taking pole position by 1.2 seconds ahead of team-mate Yvan Muller, with Sébastien Loeb third, with Ma Qing Hua making it a factory Citroën 1-2-3-4, while there was delight for Lada, with James Thompson grabbing the reversed grid pole for race two.

There was drama at the start of the first part of qualifying as the front-left wheel came off of the Zengő Motorsport Honda of Norbert Michelisz. With the car unable to rejoin the session, relegating the Hungarian immediately to 17th on the grid for both races.

Mehdi Bennani led the way through most of the first session in the Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën, although the Moroccan was pipped for P1 in the final seconds by a final flying lap from Rob Huff in the Lada Vesta.

Joining Michelisz and the non-running Hugo Valente (after the Frenchman’s FP2 crash), in the drop-zone and out in Q1 was the Proteam Honda of Dusan Borkovic, the Campos Chevrolet of John Filippi, the Craft-Bamboo Chevrolet of Grégoire Demoustier and the NIKA Honda of Rickard Rydell.

In the ten minute Q2 session for the 12 fastest cars from Q1, Bennani suffered a spin in the first sector and beached his SLR Citroën in the gravel, causing a red flag stoppage. With just under seven minutes remaining, and with no one able to set a time before the red, there was only time for one run.

Rob Huff was the second driver to miss the top ten cut, despite being on a quick lap before the red flag, finishing 11th, while Lada team-mate James Thompson secured tenth and in doing so provisionally grabs pole position for the reversed grid second race tomorrow afternoon.

Tom Chilton was the fastest Chevrolet just outside the top five in sixth for ROAL Motorsport, with Gabriele Tarquini’s Honda seventh, Stefano D’Aste’s Münnich Chevrolet eighth, and Tom Coronel in the ROAL Chevrolet P9, with the Dutch driver set to share the front row with Thompson for the second race.

Ma Qing Hua was the fastest driver in Q2 ahead of Citroën team-mates José María López and yvan Muller, with Tiago Monteiro the only non-Citroën in the top five, with Loeb getting to go first in the one-lap shootout, courtesy of being fifth in Q2.

Loeb and Ma both made mistakes in the final sector on their runs, but their times were good enough for third and fourth respectively. Tiago Monteiro also made an error on his run, which saw him qualify his Honda fifth behind the four factory Citroëns.

López was unstoppable on his one-lap run, with the Argentinian grabbing pole comfortably with a time of 1:45.461, 1.2 seconds ahead of Muller and 1.6 ahead of Sébastien Loeb.

The first race tomorrow is due to get underway at 15:15 ART (19:15 CET).