José María López takes pole position in Thailand
José María López will start from pole position in Race 1 after being the only driver to brak the 1:38 barrier. The Argentinian led a Citroën 1-2-3-4-5, with Sébastien Loeb finishing ahead of Yvan Muller, Yokohama Trophy pole sitter Mehdi Bennani and Ma Qing Hua.
López led a thrilling Q1 session, which saw the Argentinian fastest for Citroën. The big news was that Castrol Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini failed to make it to Q2 by only finishing 13th, which means he will start from the back of the grid in the first race due to his five-place penalty from Shanghai. Lada’s Nicolas Lapierre also finished outside the top 12, leaving the Frenchman out of the reversed grid and 14th.
While ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel and Münnich Motorsport’s Stefano D’Aste both had issues which left them at the back of the order in qualifying, several Chevrolet drivers made it to the top 12, with John Filippi third in his Campos Chevrolet and both Tom Chilton and Hugo Valente also qualifying for the second segment of the session.
In Q2, Mehdi Bennani was fastest of all, with Yvan Muller electing to only do one timed lap and still finishing second ahead of Citroën team-mates López, Loeb and Ma. Hugo Valente scored a remarkable sixth, with Nicky Catsburg the fastest Lada Sport Rosneft driver in seventh ahead of Tom Chilton.
Two Hondas completed the top ten to take the provisional race 2 front row, with Castrol Honda’s Tiago Monteiro ninth ahead of race 2 pole sitter Norbert Michelisz.
Rob Huff was knocked out of the top ten at the last minute by Monteiro’s improvement, while Filippi had traffic issues on his fast lap.
Q3 saw José María López take the lead from team-mate Sébastien Loeb by breaking the 1:38 barrier, the only driver who managed to do so. The Argentinian will start alongside his French team-mate, with Yvan Muller in third after a slow second sector. He will start alongside Mehdi Bennani, with Ma Qing Hua completing the top five.
José María López’s pole position means his advantage from title rival Yvan Muller increases to 77 points, and victory in race one will be enough to secure him the title.