World Touring Car Championship leader José María López has claimed pole position for his home race at the Termas de Río Hondo circuit.
The Argentine racer qualified almost half a second faster than Citroën Total WTCC teammate and chief championship rival Yvan Muller in the final one-lap shootout, while Sébastien Loeb made it a Citroën 1-2-3 on the Race 1 grid.
Norbert Michelisz set the pace in his Zengõ Motorsport Honda during the opening qualifying phase, while the more-fancied Chevrolets of Dušan Borković and Gianni Morbidelli both found themselves facing an early elimination courtesy of some improved pace from the three LADAs. Former champion Rob Huff managed to get his Granta WTCC into the second phase, just edging out teammate James Thompson for the final spot.
Q2 saw Loeb and Muller move to the top of the timesheets and sit out the remainder of the session, confident their times would get them into the five-car shootout for pole in Q3. López needed two runs to guarantee his spot after aborting his first run, but he moved to the top of the timesheets with a 1:43.813.
Michelisz and Tiago Monteiro got their Hondas through into the final five. Tom Chilton went sixth-fastest to claim top Chevrolet honours for ROAL Motorsport ahead of the remaining Hondas of Gabriele Tarquini and Mehdi Bennani.
With the fastest ten qualifiers having their grid positions reversed for Sunday’s second race, ninth-fastest Hugo Valente will start alongside the LADA of Rob Huff on the front row, with the latter managing the Russian carmaker’s best qualifying result of the 2014 season.
After suffering a turbo fire in practice, Tom Coronel couldn’t get his ROAL Chevrolet into the top-ten; he shares the sixth row of the grid with fellow Chevrolet runner René Münnich.
The shootout for pole position was always going to be a three-way fight between the Citroëns of Muller, Loeb and López. Monteiro guaranteed himself fifth on the grid with a mistake on his flying lap, leaving Michelisz to fly the Honda flag with a solid 1:44.408 which Loeb only just manage to beat.
Muller had already put himself in the frame for provisional pole position, but it was López who stole the show to the delight of his home fans. Faster in the first and final sectors of the lap, he took pole by over four-tenths of a second and earned himself an extra five points in his quest for Drivers’ Championship honours.
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Argentina – Final Qualifying:
|1.||José María López||Total Citroën Racing C-Elysée||1:43.766||TC1|
|2.||Yvan Muller||Total Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 0.428||TC1|
|3.||Sébastien Loeb||Total Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 0.544||TC1|
|4.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 0.642||TC1|
|5.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Racing Team Civic WTCC
|6.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:44.821||TC1|
|7.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda Racing Team Civic WTCC||1:45.263||TC1|
|8.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||1:45.389||TC1|
|9.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:45.542||TC1|
|10.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport 1.6T||1:45.572||TC1|
|11.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:45.696||TC1|
|12.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:45.830||TC1|
|13.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport 1.6T||1:45.964||TC1|
|14.||Dušan Borković||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:46.037||TC1|
|15.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:46.068||TC1|
|16.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport 1.6T||1:46.622||TC1|
|17.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW E90 320TC||1:50.499||TC2|
|18.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||1:51.722||TC2|
|19.||Camilo Echevarría||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW E90 320TC||1:55.658||TC2|
Images via FIA WTCC Media