Citroën Racing’s double-World Touring Car Champion José María López has claimed his seventh pole position of the 2015 season at the series’ last round in Qatar’s Losail Circuit.
The Argentine edged out fellow Citroën runner Mehdi Bennani for top spot, with the Moroccan driver putting himself in prime position to close down Norbert Michelisz in their tight battle for Independent Trophy honours.
Bennani’s team boss Sébastien Loeb qualified third-fastest to make it another dominant showing for the Citroën WTCC C-Elysées.
The three-part qualifying session took place in the late afternoon in vastly different conditions to those expected for tonight’s pair of twelve-lap races, which will be run under floodlights for the first time in the championship’s history.
The hotter conditions meant track conditions – and lap times – were initially poorer compared to Thursday night’s practice session, but the grip levels quickly picked up and lap times started to tumble over the course of the first phase of qualifying.
López led the early running ahead of Bennani and his teammate Ma Qing Hua. Hugo Valente was fourth-fastest and ‘best of the rest’ in his Campos Racing Chevrolet, while Nick Catsburg put in a late flying lap to go fifth-fastest in his LADA Vesta.
There were a few surprise eliminations in Q1, with the most notable being Rob Huff (LADA), Tom Chilton (ROAL Motorsports Chevrolet) and Gabriele Tarquini (Honda). They joined the Chevrolets of Stefano D’Aste, Gregoire Demoustier and series debutante Nasser Al-Attiyah in being knocked out of the running early on.
With it taking a touch over two minutes to complete a lap around the 5.3-kilometre Losail circuit, the ten-minute Q2 session really meant each driver only had the opportunity for one timed lap.
Eleven of the twelve runners headed out early to post their time. The odd man out was Catsburg, who opted to delay his exit from the pits and gave himself a clear track in the process to clock the third-fastest time and give himself a berth in Q3 alongside López, Bennani, Valente and Loeb.
Catsburg’s late run conspired to knock Tiago Monteiro from tenth place and pole position for Race 2, with that honour instead going to the Campos Chevrolet of John Filippi, who will share the front row with ninth-fastest qualifier Tom Coronel (ROAL Motorsports Chevrolet). Yvan Muller was eighth-fastest and will start that race from third on the grid alongside Ma Qing Hua.
The top-five Q3 shootout saw Bennani go out first, posting a 2:01.311 that couldn’t be beaten by the next three drivers – those being Loeb, Catsburg and Valente – until López came out on track and put in one of his customary demonstrations of one-lap perfection. He posted a 2:00.947 to claim his seventh pole position of the season.
The first race of the day gets underway at 21:30 local time (GMT +4) under the Losail circuit’s floodlights.
|1.||José María López||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||2:00.947|
|2.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||2:01.311||IND|
|3.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||2:01.525|
|4.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||2:01.542||IND|
|5.||Nick Catsburg||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||2:01.833|
|6.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||2:02.073||IND|
|7.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||2:02.194|
|8.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||2:02.573|
|9.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||2:02.801||IND|
|10.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||2:02.803||IND|
|11.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||2:02.812|
|12.||Nicolas Lapierre||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||2:02.877|
|13.||Stefano D’Aste||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||2:03.093||IND|
|14.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||2:03.247|
|15.||Grégoire Demoustier||Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||2:03.335||IND|
|16.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||2:03.362||IND|
|17.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||2:03.487|
|18.||Nasser Al-Attiyah||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||2:03.883||IND|
Image via Citroën Communication