José María López has claimed pole position in a chaotic qualifying World Touring Car Championship qualifying session for Sunday’s opening race in Marrakech.
His Citroën teammate Yvan Muller – who carries a five-place grid penalty into the opening race – played a tactical game to claim a reverse grid pole for Sunday’s second race.
López chalked up a relatively straightforward fifth consecutive pole position after his works Citroën teammates and chief rivals, Sébastien Loeb and the aforementioned Muller, both failed to make it into the final qualifying session for the fastest five drivers.
Their absence allowed the Argentine an easy one-lap run, made easier still by the absence of two out of the session’s five runners: Tom Chilton elected not to run his ROAL Chevrolet, while Hugo Valente continued a crash-prone run by binning his Campos Chevrolet in the tyre barriers and causing a red flag. Both drivers will start Race 1 from the back of the grid anyway, being among a number of drivers to do so for unscheduled engine changes or upgrades.
López’s only real rivals for the Q3 session were the fellow Citroëns of Ma Qing Hua and local driver Mehdi Bennani, neither of whom was able to post a time quick enough to trounce him.
The earlier Q2 session had its own drama, with Tom Coronel seeing his hopes of making the Q3 cut dashed when his on-car airjacks failed to retract on his ROAL Chevrolet. The consigned the Dutchman to a ninth-placed starting position for Race 1, which becomes the front row of the grid alongside Muller when the ten fastest qualifiers’ grid slots are reversed for Race 2.
Coronel’s dramas allowed Loeb to sneak into the top-five, only for the French rally ace to be bundled down to eighth as others improved their times. He will start behind Norbert Michelisz and Tiago Monteiro’s Honda Civics.
The other works Honda of Gabriele Tarquini failed to qualify inside the top-ten, leaving the Italian veteran with a tough job to claim a healthy number of points across both races. He will share the sixth row of the grid with his compatriot, Stefano D’Aste (Münnich Motorsport).
Despite showing some solid practice speed, none of the three LADA Vestas could make it beyond Q1.
|2015 FIA WTCC Race of Morocco – Final Qualifying|
|1.||José María López||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||1:43.854|
|2.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||1:44.109||IND|
|3.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||1:44.582|
|4.||Hugo Valente*||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||no time||IND|
|5.||Tom Chilton*||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||no time||IND|
|6.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||1:44.102|
|7.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||1:44.118|
|8.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||1:44.150|
|9.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:44.177||IND|
|10.||Yvan Muller^||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||1:44.185|
|11.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||1:44.313|
|12.||Stefano D’Aste||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:44.513||IND|
|13.||Rob Huff*||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||1:44.874|
|14.||Dušan Borković||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||1:45.087||IND|
|15.||John Filippi^||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:45.773||IND|
|16.||James Thompson*||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||1:46.113|
|17.||Grégoire Demoustier*||Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1:46.261||IND|
|18.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||1:46.407|
|WD.||Rickard Rydell||NIKA Racing Honda Civic WTCC||unwell|
* Will start Race 1 from the back of the grid due to engine change penalties
^ Five-place grid penalty to be served in Race 1 for causing an avoidable collision at the preceding Race of Argentina round.
Image via FIA WTCC Media