Photo: Citroën Racing

José María López takes his seventh pole of 2015 in Qatar qualifying

Citroën driver José María López took pole position for the last round of the 2015 World Touring Car Championship, qualifying ahead of the best-placed independents’ trophy driver Mehdi Bennani, with Sébastien Loeb third securing a Citroën 1-2-3.

During the first part of qualifying, José María López led the way with a time of 2:01.421, with all the improvements coming late in the session with qualifying being the first track activity since last night.

As the grip level increased, the times tumbled. López was ahead of the Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën of Mehdi Bennani, with Ma Qing Hua third fastest.

Hugo Valente was again the closest challenger to the Citroëns in his Campos Chevrolet, while Nicky Catsburg put in a late flyer to go fifth fastest in the Lada Vesta.

A persistent handling issue however saw 2012 champion Rob Huff fall out in Q2, qualifying down in 17th position, with the Chevrolets of Stefano D’Aste, Gregoire Demoustier, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Tom Chilton failing to make the cut, as well as the Honda of Gabriele Tarquini, who qualified in a lowly 14th.

In Q2, with two minutes a lap and ten minutes to set a time, there was only really opportunity for one run for all drivers. 11 of the drivers set their times at the start of the session, with José María López again topping the time sheets ahead of Campos Racing’s Hugo Valente with Sébastien Loeb third quickest.

Tiago Monteiro was tenth for Honda with Lada’s Nicolas Lapierre 11th and set to miss the top ten reversed grid, but the other Lada of Nicky Catsburg opted to set his run on his own and produced the third fastest time, putting himself in the top five shootout and knocking Monteiro down to 11th.

As a result, it was Campos Racing’s John Filippi who finished the session tenth fastest and will start the reversed grid second race from pole position, with Tom Coronel alongside, and Citroën’s Yvan Muller third after the four-time champion set the eighth fastest time overall.

In the top five shootout, Mehdi Bennani set the first benchmark of 2:01.311 which couldn’t be bettered by the three cars that followed him, with Sébastien Loeb, Hugo Valente and Nicky Catsburg all unable to improve on Bennani’s time.

However, champion elect José María López continued his form of the weekend in leading every session, setting a time of 2:00.947, the first driver under 2:01, almost four-tenths of a second clear to score his seventh pole of the season.

The first race of the day gets underway at 21:30 local time under the floodlights.