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José María López grabs pole in Marrakech

José María López claimed his first World Touring Car Championship pole position in a breathtaking and contentious end to qualifying in Marrakech, with Citroën teammates Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb provisionally in second and third.

The session got off to a quiet start with the running following the form of the weekend so far, with the three Citroen C-Elysées heading to the top of the timesheets. Muller was straight down to action as he broke into the 1:44s, before his second lap of 1:43.824s put him clear of his teammates as the trio returned to the pits for the remainder of the session.

There was little action in the middle part of the session, but as those in and around the 12th place cut-off point headed for a final qualifying assault Petr Fulín lost his Seat Leon in the barrier and brought out a red flag, which curtailed the session with less than a minute to go.

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That was good news for James Thompson – who had struggled for reliability during practice earlier in the day – as he snuck into the 11th, but his teammates Rob Huff and Mikhail Kozlovskiy were caught out by the stoppage as they missed out on the second part of qualifying.

They headed Franz Engstler who was the fastest of the TC2 cars ahead of Fulin, while Pasquale di Sabatino and John Filippi – who did not set a time – followed them up. Gianni Morbidelli and Gabriele Tarquini were unable to take part in the session after the clash in second practice, although the former is still hopeful of being in shape to compete tomorrow.

Muller and Citroën started where they left off when the second session got under way as the Frenchman jumped to a 1:44.028, before Loeb eclipsed that time with a 1:43.706.

The session petered out somewhat after the first round of laps, with Mehdi Bennani attempting to break into the top five before ending up ninth. His move demoted Tom Coronel to tenth, meaning the Dutchman will start the second race of the day tomorrow from pole position.

Behind the Citroëns, Dusan Borkovic and Tom Chilton were the other cars to progress to the top five shootout.

Chilton was the first to run and put in a solid and respectable 1:44.864, but Borkovic was released too early from the pitlane and was disqualified from the session, but retains his place in the top five on his debut qualifying session in the series.

Muller was next to run and looked comfortably quicker than the ROAL Motorsport driver, but a mistake on the entrance to the second chicane saw the reigning world champion cut the inside of the corner. Muller dipped under Chilton’s effort by a second, and currently retains his time from the session.

With just two cars to run, López looked set to miss out on the top spot but a stonking final sector put him 18-thousandths-of-a-second ahead of his teammate on a 1:43.730, and that final sector effort stood him in good stead as Loeb lost out in the final sector as he ended up with a time 0.115s behind Lopez.

Top ten times

1 37 TC1 José María LÓPEZ Citroën Total WTCC Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 2 1:43.730 0.000
2 1 TC1 Yvan MULLER Citroën Total WTCC Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 2 1:43.748 0.018
3 9 TC1 Sébastien LOEB Citroën Total WTCC Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 2 1:43.845 0.115
4 3 TC1 Tom CHILTON ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 2 1:44.864 1.134
5 98 TC1 Dušan BORKOVIĆ NIS Petrol by Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 1 13:14.445 30.715
Below times are taken from Q2:
6 77 TC1 René MÜNNICH ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 3 1:45.541 1.835
7 18 TC1 Tiago MONTEIRO Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda Civic WTCC 3 1:45.891 2.185
8 5 TC1 Norbert MICHELISZ Zengő Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC 3 1:46.165 2.459
9 25 TC1 Mehdi BENNANI Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC 4 1:46.227 2.521
10 4 TC1 Tom CORONEL ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 2 1:46.331 2.625

Complete session results

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