Citroën’s Sébastien Loeb took his first-ever pole position in the World Touring Car Championship at Paul Ricard in France as the French marque scored a 1-2-3 result.
Loeb posted a time less than a tenth of a second quicker than Argentine team-mate José María López in the final Q3 segment, despite having been the second-best Citroën driver during the Q1 and Q2 sessions.
Championship leader López was second fastest, ahead of Yvan Muller in third. Four-time champion Muller had previously been the quickest driver in Q1 and Q2, but ended the session three tenths down on his team-mates.
Gabriele Tarquini rewarded his JAS Motorsport Honda team with the fourth fastest time, although the Italian was ultimately more than a second off the pole position pace.
“It’s a little bit better than Marrakech – it’s my first Q3 so I’m happy,” said Tarquini. “I’m happy for the guys who worked day and night to reshell the car. At the moment the best I can do is to enter into the top five to say thank you to the whole team.”
Hugo Valente completed the top five, with the Frenchman securing his best-ever qualifying result in the WTCC. The Frenchman had previously been third fastest in Q1 and fourth fastest in Q2, but a small mistake in Q3 scuppered his chances of challenging the Citroëns.
Zengő Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz was sixth fastest, although the Hungarian suffered gearbox problems towards the end of Q2 which prevented him from setting a time to get into Q3.
A trio of RML-built Chevrolets were next up, headed by ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Chilton with Campos Racing’s Dušan Borković and Münnich Motorsport’s Gianni Morbidelli in eighth and ninth.
Qualifying tenth, and subsequently claiming race two pole, was Honda’s Tiago Monteiro. Just missing out on the reverse-grid pole for race two were René Münnich in 11th and Mehdi Bennani in 12th.
It proved to be a difficult session for LADA Sport, with Rob Huff in 13th and missing out on Q2 by four tenths of a second. James Thompson stopped on track with suspected suspension problems, whilst Mikhail Kozlovskiy peeled into the pits halfway through Q1 with what appeared to be a front-left driveshaft failure.
John Filippi was the top TC2 driver in 16th, ahead of Franz Engstler, who suffered a high-speed spin in Q1. Engstler’s team-mate Pasquale Di Sabatino will start 18th and last for both of Sunday’s races.
Top ten times
|1||9||TC1||Sébastien LOEB||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||2||1:29.527||0.000|
|2||37||TC1||José María LÓPEZ||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||2||1:29.619||0.092|
|3||1||TC1||Yvan MULLER||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||2||1:29.857||0.330|
|4||2||TC1||Gabriele TARQUINI||Castrol Honda WTC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||2||1:30.808||1.281|
|5||7||TC1||Hugo VALENTE||Campos Racing||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||2||1:31.139||1.612|
|Below times are taken from Q2:|
|6||5||TC1||Norbert MICHELISZ||Zengő Motorsport||Honda Civic WTCC||3||1:30.751||1.224|
|7||3||TC1||Tom CHILTON||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||5||1:30.897||1.370|
|8||98||TC1||Dušan BORKOVIĆ||NIS Petrol by Campos Racing||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||5||1:31.099||1.572|
|9||10||TC1||Gianni MORBIDELLI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||5||1:31.207||1.680|
|10||18||TC1||Tiago MONTEIRO||Castrol Honda WTC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||5||1:31.224||1.697|