Alain Menu will start from pole position for the opening WTCC race at Sonoma Raceway

Alain Menu has ensured yet another pole position for Chevrolet in the World Touring Car Championship’s maiden visit the carmaker’s home soil at Sonoma Raceway. The Swiss veteran produced an exquisite final lap to claim pole position from former champion Gabriele Tarquini.

With his first run in the ten-minute Q2 session being enough to put him third-fastest, Menu went out for a second run in the dying minutes of the session, beating his lap time by three-tenths of a second to snatch top spot from Tarquini.

The Italian tried to respond on his final run, but only succeeded in running wide on his hot lap to consign himself to second-fastest.

Fastest in the opening twenty-minute qualifying session, reigning champion Yvan Muller could only manage third-fastest in Q2, and he’ll share the second row of the grid with team-mate and main championship rival, Rob Huff, who trails the Frenchman by 17 points heading into this weekend’s event.

Despite a poor performance in the early practice sessions, BMW had more runners make Q2 than any other manufacturer present, with five drivers qualifying inside the top-twelve in Q1.

Hungaroring race-winner Norbert Michelisz would prove the quickest of this quintet, and he’ll line up alongside fellow Independent Trophy runner Alex MacDowell on the third row.

Tiago Monteiro was seventh-fastest in the venerable SUNRED Leon in what will be his final outing for the marque before he switched to Honda colours for the last three championship rounds in the Far East.

Tiago Monteiro qualified seventh-fastest at his final event before he switches to the Honda camp Stefano D'Aste will start from pole position for Race 2

The top ten was completed by a trio of BMWs, with Franz Engstler, Mehdi Bennani and Stefano D’Aste doing the honours. With the Race 2 grid positions reversed for the ten-fastest qualifiers, that gives D’Aste and Bennani front-row honours for Sunday afternoon’s second fifteen-lap race.

Aleksei Dudukalo brought out the red flags in the first qualifying session after he had a spin at Turn 2 – a corner proving itself to be supremely challenging for the WTCC runners – and he took no part in Q2, despite having posted a fast enough lap time to get into the session.

Tom Coronel had a disastrous qualifying session and also had a spin at Turn 2. The frustrated Dutchman also fell victim to the tricky Turn 2 and will start both races from 20th position in his ROAL BMW.

This weekend’s two WTCC debutants also had a tough time of it. Local driver Robb Holland qualified slowest of the runners in his Bamboo Chevrolet, while Felice Tedeschi will take no further part in proceedings after he crashed and rolled his Proteam BMW at Turn 4 in Friday’s free test session.

2012 FIA WTCC Race of USA Q1 & Q2 Session Times:

Driver Team Q2 Time YIT
1. Alain Menu SUI RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:45.232  
2. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Lukoil Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT 1:45.468  
3. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:45.539  
4. Robert Huff GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:45.572  
5. Norbert Michelisz HUN Zengõ Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 1:46.558 Y
6. Alex MacDowell GBR Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:46.578 Y
7. Tiago Monteiro POR Tuenti Racing SR León 1.6T Sunred 1:46.594  
8. Franz Engstler DEU Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 1:46.761 Y
9. Mehdi Bennani MOR Proteam Racing BMW 320TC BMW 1:47.004 Y
10. Stefano D’Aste ITA Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC BMW 1:47.263 Y
11. Alberto Cerqui ITA ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 1:47.851 Y
12. Aleksei Dudukalo RUS Lukoil Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT no time Y
  Q2 CUT-OFF: 1:46.976 Q1 Time  
13. James Nash GBR Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC Ford 1:47.000  
14. Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 1:47.050 Y
15. Fernando Monje ESP SUNRED Engineering SEAT León WTCC SEAT 1:47.149 Y
16. Darryl O’Young HKG Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT 1:47.167 Y
17. Tom Chilton GBR Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC Ford 1:47.380  
18. Pepe Oriola ESP Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León WTCC SEAT 1:47.434 Y
19. Tom Boardman GBR Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT 1:47.436 Y
20. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 1:47.546  
21. Robb Holland USA Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:48.179 Y
  107% CUT-OFF: 1:52.944 Q1 Time  
WD. Felice Tedeschi ITA Proteam Racing BMW 320TC BMW no time Y

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).

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.