José María López has claimed an all-important pole position for the opening World Touring Car Championship race at the Shanghai International Circuit. The Argentine driver and championship leader led a Citroën 1-2-3 on the timesheets, with local driver Ma Qing Hua separating López from his sole title rival, Yvan Muller.
The opening qualifying segment saw Ma lead the way from the sister Citroëns of Muller, López and Sébastien Loeb. Beijing Race 1 winner Tom Chilton headed the ‘best of the rest’ charge in his ROAL RML Chevrolet, ahead of the three Honda Civics of Gabriele Tarquini, Norbert Michelisz and Tiago Monteiro.
The second ROAL Chevrolet of Tom Coronel made into the top twelve, along with Mehdi Bennani’s Honda and the Campos Racing Chevrolets of Dušan Borković and Hugo Valente.
Beijing race 2 Rob Huff threw everything but the kitchen sink in his final flying lap in his LADA, but the Englishman was among a trio of drivers – along with Gianni Morbidelli and James Thompson – who narrowly failed to make the Q2 cut.
There was drama in Q2 when Coronel was unable to make his final run after being called in by the scrutineers for a weighbridge check. The Dutchman was narrowly holding off Bennani’s Honda for the all-important tenth place on the timesheets, which would have given him pole position for Race 2. As it was, Bennani managed to get another lap in and lowered his benchmark by five-hundredths of a second to edge out his rival and claim the spot.
The mini-session was once again dominated by the Citroëns, which had all four cars ease into the top-five one-lap shootout for pole. The sole non-Citroën was Michelisz’s Honda, leaving fellow Civic runners Monteiro and Tarquini to claim sixth and seventh ahead of Chilton and Hugo Valente.
The final shootout saw López claim another pole position, just holding out Ma by 0.1 seconds; Muller claimed third-fastest by was a further half-second behind. Michesliz did well to split Muller and Loeb and claim fourth, with the latter having a scrappy lap which included clipping the tyre bundle placed at the last corner.
López’s pole position gave him another two championship points, easing him to a 68-point buffer over Muller with a further 50-point maximum haul on offer if he wins both of Sunday’s races – the first of which kicks off at 15:00 local time (GMT +8).
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Shanghai – Final Qualifying:
|1.||José María López||Total Citroën Racing C-Elysée||1:48.782||TC1|
|2.||Ma Qing Hua||Total Citroën Racing C-Elysée||1:48.898||TC1|
|3.||Yvan Muller||Total Citroën Racing C-Elysée||1:49.424||TC1|
|4.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||1:49.681||TC1|
|5.||Sébastien Loeb||Total Citroën Racing C-Elysée||1:49.830||TC1|
|6.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Racing Team Civic WTCC||1:50.178||TC1|
|7.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda Racing Team Civic WTCC||1:50.229||TC1|
|8.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:50.351||TC1|
|9.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:50.406||TC1|
|10.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||1:50.528||TC1|
|11.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:50.548||TC1|
|12.||Dušan Borković||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:51.665||TC1|
|13.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:51.655||TC1|
|14.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Granta Sport 1.6T||1:51.662||TC1|
|15.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Granta Sport 1.6T||1:51.781||TC1|
|16.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Granta Sport 1.6T||1:51.953||TC1|
|17.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:52.393||TC1|
|18.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW E90 320TC||1:55.315||TC2|
|19.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||1:56.753||TC2|
|20.||William Lok||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||1:58.664||TC2|
|21.||Felipe de Souza||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW E90 320TC||1:58.719||TC2|
Image via FIA WTCC Media