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Gabriele Tarquini takes first Honda pole

Gabriele Tarquini has secured Honda’s first-ever World Touring Car Championship pole position around the Marrakech street circuit in Morocco after beating James Nash to the top spot.

Click here for the full qualifying results.

Tarquini had been the fastest man in Q1, and posted a lap of 1:44.358 early-on in Q2 to mark himself out as the man to beat. The Italian’s sixteenth career WTCC pole means that he is now the most successful qualifier in WTCC history. The pole is also the first outright for a Honda, with the only other occasion a Honda started from P1 being the second race in Macau in 2008.

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James Nash qualified second for bamboo-engineering, enjoying his best-ever qualifying session since joining the series in 2012.

For the first time in 2013 a session was not topped by RML’s Yvan Muller, with the Frenchman qualifying in third. Michel Nykjær will line up alongside the former champion.

Tom Chilton was fifth, with the Brits final qualifying lap hindered by a slow Fernando Monje who began an out-lap at the end of the session. Chilton will be joined by fellow Englishman Alex MacDowall on the third row of the grid.

Rob Huff and Marc Basseng were seventh and eighth respectively for Münnich Motorsport. The team had endured various teething problems throughout free practice, struggling with car set-up around the unique Moroccan street circuit.

Spaniards Pepe Oriola and Fernando Monje were ninth and tenth and will therefore start on the front row of the grid for race two. Monje did not manage to set a time before the chequered flag fell, despite trying, but will line-up on the front row due to at least starting an out-lap.

James Thompson was unable to post a time in Q2 due to the damage he sustained to his front-left suspension when he clipped the pit wall in Q1. Equally Tom Coronel crashed into the back of team-mate Darryl O’Young in Q1, ruling him out of Q2. Both drivers will thus start 11th and 12th for tomorrow’s races.

There were incidents for several other drivers in Q1 – notably Tiago Monteiro causing the only red flag of the session when he hit the wall exiting the second chicane. The Portugese driver appeared to lose the back end of his Honda and clipped a kerb, sending him into the barriers. He had previously managed a time good enough for only 14th.

Local driver Mehdi Bennani also had an eventful session, spinning his BMW and damaging his rear-bumper. The Moroccan could only manage 18th in qualifying.

Mikhail Kozlovskiy, making his WTCC début and replacing Aleksei Dudukalo at LADA, qualified in 22nd out of 23 cars, with René Münnich the slowest of all drivers.

Round 3 of the 2013 WTCC takes place at 15:20 WET (16:20 GMT, 17:20 CET) on Sunday 6th April 2013.

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