Citroën Total WTCC’s José María López is aiming to close out his incredible rookie season in the World Touring Car Championship in style by claiming his seventh pole position of 2014 at the season-ending Macau Guia Race.
The Argentine – having his first outing on what is undoubtedly the toughest street circuit in the world – gave another classy display to lead a Citroën 1-2-3 ahead of Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller. Norbert Michelisz led the ‘best of the rest’ charge in his Honda, while Tom Coronel rounded out the top-five in his Chevrolet.
The opening qualifying session was red-flagged barely two minutes in when Pepe Oriola crashed for the second time today, pinballing his Campos Chevrolet into the barriers at Maternity Bend. The Spanish driver – making his only outing of the season as he hopes to fund a full-time return to the series – blocked the circuit, forcing the session to be suspended before anyone had posted a timed lap.
One Oriola’s car was craned away, the session resumed and it was Muller who moved to the top of the timesheets before being eclipsed by Loeb’s Citroën C-Elysée. After aborting his first run, López slotted into second-fastest to ensure all three full-time Citroëns were safely into Q2. Despite a wild slide through the esses, Ma Qing Hua managed to get the fourth #33 Citroën through as well.
Late runs from Gianni Morbidelli and Tom Chilton proved enough to knock Mehdi Bennani’s Honda and James Thompson’s LADA out of the top-ten, and their fate was sealed when Q1 was red-flagged when Mikhail Kozlovskiy spun his LADA at Lisboa and blocked the track with two minutes to go. With not enough time for anyone to go out and try for another lap, the session was brought to an early close.
As ever, the second stage of qualifying provided a fascinating dual narrative: who would secure a top-five timesheet berth for the Q3 one-lap shootout, and who could secure the tenth-fastest time that would give them an all-important pole position for Sunday’s second race?
López popped out a time of 2:24.539 to go fastest from Loeb and Muller; Loeb temporarily lowered the benchmark only for López to snatch back top spot.
The fourth Citroën of Ma Qing Hua looked on course for the reverse grid pole until a late effort from Tarquini was enough to bundle him out of tenth place. As a result, Hugo Valente secured tenth, and he will share the front row of the grid with ninth-fastest Tom Chilton’s ROAL Chevrolet. Six-time Macau winner Rob Huff was eighth-fastest.
Michelisz and a delighted Coronel joined the lead Citroën trio in Q3. Michelisz was out first in his Honda, clocking a 2:25.327 – Coronel looked on course to better the effort, only to slap the wall going up the hill and damage his left-front suspension. The Dutchman abandoned his timed lap and peeled into the pits.
Muller was next up and claimed provisional pole position with a 2:24.779 – his fastest lap of the weekend – before Loeb bettered the effort thanks to a rapid first sector split.
López was last out and once again thrashed all comers with a new lap record, a 2:24.294 to go two-tenths quicker than Loeb and secure the seventh pole position of his season.
With Saturday functioning as a ‘rest’ day while the Formula 3 Grand Prix runners get down to business, the next on-track action for the touring cars is the first 10-lap race that kicks off at 11:15 local time (GMT +8), with Race 2 following shortly after at 12:30.
2014 FIA WTCC Guia Race of Macau – Final Qualifying:
|1.||José María López||Total Citroën Racing C-Elysée||2:24.294||TC1|
|2.||Sébastien Loeb||Total Citroën Racing C-Elysée||2:24.522||TC1|
|3.||Yvan Muller||Total Citroën Racing C-Elysée||2:24.779||TC1|
|4.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||2:25.327||TC1|
|5.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||no time||TC1|
|6.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda Racing Team Civic WTCC||2:25.769||TC1|
|7.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Racing Team Civic WTCC||2:25.825||TC1|
|8.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Granta Sport 1.6T||2:25.866||TC1|
|9.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||2:26.187||TC1|
|10.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||2:26.204||TC1|
|11.||Ma Qing Hua||Total Citroën Racing C-Elysée||2:26.535||TC1|
|12.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||2:26.911||TC1|
|13.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||2:27.630||TC1|
|14.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Granta Sport 1.6T||2:27.667||TC1|
|15.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Granta Sport 1.6T||2:28.602||TC1|
|16.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW E90 320TC||2:34.015||TC2|
|17.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||2:35.656||TC2|
|18.||Felipe de Souza||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW E90 320TC||2:38.204||TC2|
|19.||Mak Ka Lok||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW E90 320TC||2:41.086||TC2|
|DNQ.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||2:37.287||TC1|
|DNQ.||William Lok||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||2:45.059||TC2|
|DNQ.||Henry Kwong||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||2:45.110||TC2|
|DNQ.||Pepe Oriola||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||no time||TC1|
Image via Christian Hartung / RichardsF1.com