Alain Menu has taken his first pole position of 2012 by setting the fastest time in qualifying for the opening World Touring Car Championship race in Morocco tomorrow.
Alongside Menu on the front row of the grid will be Rob Huff, who had looked to take pole himself until Menu set a quicker time in the closing seconds of the session. Tom Coronel will start from third, with Yvan Muller alongside – Coronel benefitted from Muller’s slipstream to beat him in qualifying, much to the Frenchman’s ire.
Gabriele Tarquini qualified in fifth – despite only just making it into the second session after finishing Q1 down in 12th. He will have fellow SEAT racer Pepe Oriola alongside him on the third row of the grid, which surely has one of the biggest age gaps seen in modern motorsport – there is a massive 33 years difference in age between the two.
Having left it until late in the session to hit the track, Alex MacDowall took his bamboo engineering Chevrolet to seventh. Tom Chilton was the first of two Team Aon Ford’s making it into Q2 for the first time, and he lines up in eighth alongside his fellow BTCC graduate.
Ninth fastest was Franz Engstler, with Tiago Monteiro completing the top ten. Monteiro and Engstler will benefit from starting tomorrow’s second race from first and second respectively, due to the WTCC’s reverse grid rules.
Missing out on the reverse grid and lining up eleventh for both races will be James Nash – despite making it into Q1 for the first time. He will have Stefano D’Aste alongside, after the Italian was unable to set a competitive time due to suffering a suspension failure on his BMW.
Swiss Menu was also fastest in a frantic Q1 session that saw the drivers at the top of the times frequently changing. Menu left it until the last minute to top the times in the first session, despite complaining about his car’s handling over the street circuit’s numerous kerbs.
Numerous drivers topped the times in the first part of qualifying – which was extended to half an hour to allow for potential stoppages around a street circuit. Indeed MacDowall, who had been fastest after 10 minutes of the session, ended up 11th such was the competitiveness of the field.
Missing out on Q1 in the closing minutes were Norbert Michelisz, 13th, and Pasquale Di Sabatino, 14th. Both drivers had been inside the top 12 with minutes to go, before being demoted.
Aleksei Dudukalo failed to set a competitive time during the session after the Russian misjudged his braking on his first lap and crashed into the back of Nash’s Ford. Whilst Nash was able to return to the pits for repair, Dudukalo’s SEAT suffered significant frontal damage that forced him to sit out the rest of the session.