Yvan Muller takes his 27th career pole position in Russia and jumps to second in points
Four-time World Touring Car champion Yvan Muller took his 27th career pole position in the WTCC at the Moscow Raceway ahead of Citroën team-mate José María López, and after a disastrous qualifying for team-mate Sébastien Loeb, the French driver also capitalises in the drivers’ standings, moving up to second with the five points for pole, four points clear of Loeb.
Yvan Muller’s pole position record in the WTCC is not under immediate threat, with Gabriele Tarquini the closest to his record on 17, and with the Italian still chasing his first since Slovakia in 2013, despite coming within two-tenths of a second of pole today in Moscow.
Citroën seemed like they were on the back foot throughout practice, with Honda and Lada both getting the jump on them during the 30-minute sessions, but López and Muller came to the fore in qualifying, with Muller breaking the lap record in Q1 with a time of 1:37.900, and almost replicated that lap in the single-lap Q3 shootout to take his second pole of the year.
“We put in some good work in free practice, gradually adapting our setup to the track,” said Muller. “Just before Q3, we changed another detail, and that paid off. I really enjoyed my lap. I probably lost a few thousandths of a second here and there, but I didn’t make any mistakes. It’s always satisfying to win pole position, especially when the competition is so fierce. The plan for tomorrow is pretty simple: I’ll have to get away well and stay in front from start to finish.”
López will be aiming to at least maintain his points advantage, which now stands at 50 over Yvan Muller, exactly the amount on offer tomorrow if a driver was able to win both races, meaning the Argentinian is highly likely to leave tomorrow still with a comfortable lead in the points barring disaster.
“I’m satisfied with second place,” said López. “You can’t win pole position every weekend. Yvan was the best driver out there today, so congratulations to him. As far as the championship goes, it’s always good to get into Q3 and notch up a few extra points. I’m happy for the team, because we knew it would be difficult here.”
Sébastien Loeb on the other hand had a terrible qualifying session, the worst of his WTCC career ignoring his exclusion for a technical irregularity at Paul Ricard last season, where he’d originally taken pole position in any case.
“11th place in qualifying is probably the most frustrating position to be in, as it means I won’t benefit from the reverse grid,” said Loeb. “I wasn’t aiming for pole position in race 2. I wanted a place in Q3,but I made a few mistakes on my second Q2 run and Tiago Monteiro overtook me in the final seconds.”