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Mehdi Bennani takes first-ever pole in Qatar qualifying

Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani secured his first-ever outright pole position in qualifying for the World Touring Car Championship in Qatar, ahead of Polestar Cyan Racing’s Thed Björk.

The Moroccan racer was the first driver to post a time in Q3 and it proved to be the fastest, securing him the honour of a first outright pole at an event the 33-year-old considers to be his ‘second home race’.

Second went to Volvo driver Björk, who was just 0.036 seconds behind, whilst the departing works Citroëns were third and fourth, thanks to José María López and Yvan Muller respectively. Both had been faster in the first half of the lap, but both lost out in the second half to Bennani’s pace.

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Norbert Michelisz had been faster than Bennani in the first two sectors of his crucial Q3 run, before the Hungarian clipped one of the tyre stacks on the exit of the track and broke his front-left suspension, bringing out the red flags and leaving him with fifth in Q3.

Honda’s Rob Huff once again missed out on Q3, just 0.040 seconds from the cut-off, ahead of team-mate Tiago Monteiro in seventh.

Polestar Cyan Racing’s Robert Dahlgren was eighth on his return to the WTCC, putting the Swede in a strong position for the reverse-grid Opening Race.

Completing the top ten, and securing the front row of the grid for the Opening Race, were LADA’s Gabriele Tarquini and Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Tom Chilton.

Nicky Catsburg abandoned his final flying lap in Q2, leaving him to start from 11th for both races, whilst Hugo Valente was 12th due to his front-left suspension breaking on his flying lap. The Frenchman’s subsequent half-spin and stoppage on the track brought out the red flags for the third time of the weekend, and left him to start in the mid-pack in his last race weekend with LADA.

ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel, who had on Thursday suffered from limited track time when his wheel fell off in second practice, could only manage 13th fastest, missing out on Q2 by less than a tenth of a second. He was nevertheless the fastest of the independent Chevrolet RML drivers.

Münnich Motorsport’s James Thompson was 14th fastest, the Brit’s final flying lap failing to elevate him into Q2, ahead of Campos Racing’s John Filippi in 15th, who failed to emulate the form he showed at the circuit in 2015.

Zengő Motorsport duo Ferenc Ficza and Dániel Nagy, who had earlier shown strong pace in second practice, could only manage 15th and 16th fastest respectively, over two seconds off the pace.

Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Grégoire Demoustier was the slowest driver of all in 18th.


Only Citroën drivers took part in the session due to the damage incurred in the earlier sessions for LADA and Honda respectively.

SLR’s Bennani, Chilton and Demoustier ran in that order, achieving a combined time of 4 minutes 13.756 seconds, although Demoustier was clearly struggling to keep pace with his team-mates over the two lap run.

Both of the season’s final races take place later on Friday evening, with race one at 21:20 local time (18:20 GMT, 19:20 CET) and race two at 22:35 local time (19:35 GMT, 20:35 CET).

Top ten times

1 25 Mehdi BENNANI Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 3 2:00.456
2 62 Thed BJÖRK Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 WTCC 3 2:00.492 0.036
3 37 José María LÓPEZ Citroën Total WTCC Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 3 2:00.895 0.439
4 68 Yvan MULLER Citroën Total WTCC Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 3 2:01.632 1.176
5 5 Norbert MICHELISZ Honda Racing Team JAS Honda Civic WTCC 1 No time N/A
The following times are from Q2
6 12 Rob HUFF Honda Racing Team JAS Honda Civic WTCC 5 2:00.892 1.094
7 18 Tiago MONTEIRO Honda Racing Team JAS Honda Civic WTCC 4 2:00.965 1.167
8 63 Robert DAHLGREN Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 WTCC 3 2:01.114 1.316
9 2 Gabriele TARQUINI LADA Sport Rosneft LADA Vesta WTCC 3 2:01.372 1.574
10 3 Tom CHILTON Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 4 2:01.771 1.973

Complete session results

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