Rob Huff and Sébastien Loeb Racing teammate Mehdi Bennani have claimed a front-row lockout for the opening FIA World Touring Car Cup race at Vila Real.

The pair secured the French team’s first 1-2 qualifying result in its WTCR history in an incident-filled qualifying session disrupted by no less than four separate red flags,

While the Yvan Muller Racing Hyundais had set the early practice pace, Huff managed to unlock more from the SLR Volkswagen Golf GTI package in the midst of seemingly constant interruptions to the session as a number of drivers found the barriers around the 4.6-kilometre street circuit.

The Englishman’s quickest time of all, a 2:00.924 saw him beat teammate Bennani by just 0.027 seconds thanks to a quick middle sector. Another hot lap saw him quickest in the first sector and potentially on course to go even faster, only for the red flags to be unfurled for the fourth and final time when Jean-Karl Vernay put his WRT Audi into the wall.

With barely two minutes to go on the clock – not even enough time for anyone to complete an out-lap – officials mercifully opted to end the session altogether.

Behind the two SLR VWs, Norbert Michelisz will start from third place in his BRC Racing Hyundai i30 ahead of championship leader Yann Ehrlacher’s Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic.

Practice pace-setter Thed Björk could not repeat the pace he had showcased earlier in the day and could only qualify fifth-fastest in his YMR Hyundai. His fastest lap was actually half a second slower than the best time he had closed during Free Practice.

The reigning FIA WTCC title-winner will share the third row of the grid with teammate and team owner Yvan Muller, who was lucky to survive clipping the barrier exiting the second chicane just before the session’s first red flag.

The grid’s top ten was completed by John Filippi (Campos Racing Cupra), Esteban Guerrier (Münnich Motorsport Honda), Gabriele Tarquini (BRC Racing Hyundai) and the aforementioned Vernay.

The first race of the weekend follows at 16:00 WEST / 17:00 CEST.

2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup Race of Portugal – Race 1 Final Qualifying Results
Driver Team Time Gap
1. Rob Huff Sébastien Loeb Racing 2:00.924
2. Mehdi Bennani Sébastien Loeb Racing 2:00.951 + 0.027
3. Norbert Michelisz BRC Racing Team 2:01.280 + 0.356
4. Yann Ehrlacher ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 2:01.445 + 0.521
5. Thed Björk MRacing – YMR 2:01.683 + 0.759
6. Yvan Muller MRacing – YMR 2:01.765 + 0.841
7. John Filippi Team OSCARO by Campos Racing 2:02.075 + 1.151
8. Esteban Guerrieri ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 2:02.168 + 1.185
9. Gabriele Tarquini it BRC Racing Team 2:02.357 + 1.244
10. Jean-Karl Vernay Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team 2:02.357 + 1.433
11. James Thompson ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 2:02.540 + 1.616
12. Zsolt Dávid Szabó Zengõ Motorsport 2:02.592 + 1.668
13. Pepe Oriola es Team OSCARO by Campos Racing 2:02.792 + 1.818
14. Benjamin Lessennes be Boutsen Ginion Racing 2:02.882 + 1.958
15. Aurélien Comte DG Sport Compétition 2:02.942 + 2.018
16. Tom Coronel Boutsen Ginion Racing 2:03.211 + 2.287
17. Nathanaël Berthon Comtoyou Racing 2:03.223 + 2.299
18. Gordon Shedden Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team 2:03.333 + 2.409
19. Frédéric Vervisch be Audi Sport Team Comtoyou 2:03.390 + 2.466
20. Fabrizio Giovanardi it Mulsanne SRL 2:03.412 + 2.488
21. Aurélien Panis Comtoyou Racing 2:03.469 + 2.545
22. Mat’o Homola DG Sport Compétition 2:03.479 + 2.555
23. Norbert Nagy Zengõ Motorsport 2:03.710 + 2.786
24. Gianni Morbidelli it Mulsanne SRL 2:03.958 + 3.034
25. Denis Dupont be Comtoyou Racing 2:04.450 + 3.526
26. Edgar Florindo Rui Edgar Macedo Florindo 2:05.462 + 4.538
27. José Rodrigues Target Competition no time

Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • None

Image via FIA WTCR Media

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.