José María López has led an emphatic 1-2 in qualifying on Citroën’s debut in the FIA World Touring Car Championship on the streets of Marrakech. He and rookie teammate Sébastien Loeb outpaced team leader Yvan Muller in the final one-lap pole shootout on the challenging street circuit.
Muller had actually made it a 1-2-3 for the French carmaker, but stewards later ruled that he had exceeded the street circuit’s track limits and he was consequently stripped of his time, which dropped him a spot behind the ROAL Chevrolet Cruze of Tom Chilton.
Fellow Q3 runner and series rookie Dušan Borković was also stripped of his qualifying time after being released from pit lane too early in Q3.
After the Citroën runners had dominated all preceding test and practice sessions, qualifying was going to be about which of the team’s driving trio would grab top spot and the five championship points that went with it.
But the twenty-car field was already two cars short when action got underway for the opening twenty-minute qualifying session: series returnee Gianni Morbidelli had a rather unfortunate coming-together with Gabriele Tarquini in FP2, causing significant damage to each driver’s respective Chevrolet and Honda cars. While Morbidelli’s brand-new Cruze will be ready ahead of Sunday’s two races, the works Honda outfit opted to withdraw Tarquini from the event so it could repair his battered car in time for next weekend’s round at Paul Ricard.
Out on track, Muller set the Q1 pace with a brisk 1:43.824 on his second flying lap to lead teammates Loeb and López at the end of the session. Chilton – despite haivng to abandon his first run after a mistake – took the fourth-quickest time, with the Campos Chevrolet of Hugo Valente went fifth-quickest.
Having had his own accident in Friday’s open test session, Tom Coronel managed to get his repaired ROAL Chevrolet into sixth, ahead of series debutante Dušan Borković in the second Campos Chevrolet. Borković’s final flying lap proved good enough to knock former series champion Rob Huff out of the top-twelve who progress to Q2.
A crash by Petr Fulín saw Q1 red-flagged in the final minute, leaving the LADAs of Huff and Mikhail Kozlovskiy out of the reckoning, along with the three TC2 class runners who took to the track. Franz Engstler claimed ‘pole’ of the second-division runners in his BMW.
The second phase of qualifying saw the Citroëns dominate proceedings again, although this time it was rally legend Loeb who headed the order, just four-thousandths of a second faster than López, with Muller, Chilton and Borković all making the Q3 cut.
René Munnich delivered a career-best sixth-quickest time – narrowly missing out on a Q3 run – in his first outing in a Chevrolet, lining up quicker than the three remaining Hondas of Tiago Monteiro, Norbert Michelisz and crowd favourite Mehdi Bennani.
Tom Coronel was tenth-fastest ahead of James Thompson and Hugo Valente, and so will have pole position for Sunday’s second race when the fastest ten qualifiers’ grid positions are reversed. But he’ll have to compete with hometown hero Bennani, who shares the front row of the grid with him.
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Morocco – Final Qualifying:
|1.||José María López||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||1:43.730||TC1|
|2.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 0.115||TC1|
|3.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 1.134||TC1|
|4.||Yvan Muller*||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||no time||TC1|
|5.||Dušan Borković*||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||no time||TC1|
|6.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:45.541||TC1|
|7.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||1:45.891||TC1|
|8.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||1:46.165||TC1|
|9.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||1:46.227||TC1|
|10.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:46.331||TC1|
|11.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||1:46.433||TC1|
|12.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:55.284||TC1|
|13.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||1:47.512||TC1|
|14.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||1:47.762||TC1|
|15.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||1:49.250||TC2|
|16.||Petr Fulín||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||1:50.489||TC2|
|17.||Pasquale di Sabatino||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||1:50.520||TC2|
|DNQ.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||no time||TC2|
|DNQ.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||no time||TC1|
|WD.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||no time||TC1|
* Muller and Borković were stripped of their Q3 qualifying times for exceeding the track limits and incorrect tyre set use respectively.