Yvan Muller has claimed pole position for the opening race of the World Touring Car Championship round at Valencia. The Chevrolet driver beat Gabriele Tarquini to pole by three-tenths of a second in a busy qualifying session, while Tom Coronel claimed a remarkable third place in his ROAL BMW to ensure three different manufacturers were represented at the pointy end of the timesheets.
Muller needed his final flying lap in the first phase of qualifying to ensure he would make the shootout for pole, after his previous fastest lap was stripped when the stewards ruled that he’d taken too much kerbing at Turn 1 on an earlier flying lap.
But that rarely stops a three-time World Champion in his tracks, and the Frenchman sailed around the Ricardo Tormo circuit to make sure he would be in the reckoning for the second session.
Tarquini again threatened to snatch pole from Muller, but a mistake on his final flying lap saw him slide into the infield gravel and he was left to settle for second place, two spots ahead of fellow SEAT runner Pepe Oriola, who delighted the local crowds by qualifying an outstanding fourth, also making him the fastest Independent Trophy runner.
Muller’s team-mate Robert Huff could only manage fifth on the grid, and he shares the third row with Norbert Michelisz, while Franz Engstler and Aleksei Dudukalo (whose SEAT caught fire in parc ferme at the end of the session) will start from the fourth row.
Tom Coronel had to face an even greater challenge to make the qualifying cut. The Dutch driver’s driveshaft packed it in on his Q1 out-lap, but his ROAL mechanics worked miracles to replace the damaged part and get him out on-track with just five minutes of the session left. His one and only flying lap was good enough to get him through to Q2, and he backed that up with the third-fastest time in the following session.
But Coronel could face a meeting with the stewards should rival BMW runner Stefano D’Aste raise concerns over being held up on his final flying lap in Q1. D’Aste was in the process of trying to ensure a berth in Q2 when he came across Coronel on a slow in-lap run at the final corner; the Italian was forced wide and into the gravel, but he still managed to scrape into the session despite this. He finished tenth-fastest in Q2, which gives him pole position for tomorrow’s second race.
2012 FIA WTCC Race of Spain Q1 & Q2 Session Times:
The starting order for Race 1 is determined by the qualifying results indicated above, unless states otherwise. The ten-fastest drivers – as indicated by their Q2 fastest times – start in reverse starting order for Race 2, unless stated otherwise. (‘Y’ denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy entered driver).