Alain Menu - Photo Credit: fiawtcc.com

Alain Menu celebrates his pole position - Photo Credit: fiawtcc.com

After setting the pace in the test and free practice sessions, Alain Menu was again the man to beat in qualifying for the WTCC Race of Japan at Suzuka, taking pole position in an extremely close session.

In Q1, it was series returnee Colin Turkington who posted the fastest time in his Wiechers-Sport BMW, ahead of Michel Nykjaer, Gabriele Tarquini, Menu, Robert Dahlgren, Tiago Monteiro, title rivals Yvan Muller and Rob Huff, Tom Coronel and Darryl O'Young. This gives the Chinese driver pole position for the second race.

The first session was interrupted by a red flag when Pepe Oriola crashed heavily at the exit of the final turn. The young Spaniard ended up 20th of the 24 runners, but has been given a five place grid penalty for changing his engine.

Rally driver Toshi Arai could only manage 16th after showing strong pace in practice in the fourth factory Chevrolet. He then had all his times disallowed for not stopping at the weighing bridge.

In Q2 most of the drivers set their best times on their first attempts at a flying lap. Menu edged out Muller by 0.049 seconds to take pole position. Dahlgren improved on his second effort to prevent a Chevrolet lockout of the top three by beating Huff to third place. The Briton was only 0.077s behind Menu's time.

Coronel also improved to take fifth ahead of the Sunred trio of Monteiro, Nykjaer and Tarquini. O'Young and Turkington will share the fifth row of the grid for the first race.

The result gave Menu his third pole of the year, and extended Chevrolet's complete domination of qualifying this year.

On my best lap I had a huge oversteer at turn seven and then the car went the other way going into Turn 8, so I didn't think it was a good lap time,” he said. “So I'm very happy that I still got the pole. For Q2, it started to drizzle a little bit. It was hardly anything, so I think we all thought it would be OK, but it was enough to make a few corners very slippery.

Muller said: “Well done to Alain. He deserved it, he did a great lap. I am pleased with second place, especially because after my first lap in Q2 I was not really feeling the car. We did a small change, and the balance was much better. I'm second and Rob is behind me, and that is the main thing.”

Dahlgren added: “The Chevrolets have done a great job. I thought I might have had a chance to do something in qualifying, but unfortunately on my first lap I went off a bit and on the second one it was slippery and I went off again. We'll look at the data and everyone will say, 'oh, I could have gone this much faster', but there are two races tomorrow and I think it will be very interesting if we have good race speed as well.”

Qualifying 1 result (top ten reversed for race two grid)

Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap Laps
1 Colin Turkington Wiechers BMW 320 TC 53.672 16
2 Michel Nykjaer Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 53.725 0.053 6
3 Gabriele Tarquini Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 53.734 0.062 10
4 Alain Menu Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 53.748 0.076 10
5 Robert Dahlgren Polestar Volvo C30 Drive 53.760 0.088 8
6 Tiago Monteiro Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 53.871 0.199 12
7 Yvan Muller Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 53.893 0.221 7
8 Robert Huff Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 53.937 0.265 9
9 Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 320 TC 53.943 0.271 11
10 Darryl O'Young Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 53.956 0.284 12
11 Javier Villa Proteam BMW 320 TC 54.006 0.334 19
12 Yukinori Taniguchi Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 54.070 0.398 17
13 Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 320 TC 54.073 0.401 16
14 Kristian Poulsen Engstler BMW 320 TC 54.126 0.454 14
15 Aleksei Dudukalo Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 54.127 0.455 16
16 Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 320 TC 54.219 0.547 18
17 Fredy Barth Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 54.411 0.739 15
18 Hiroki Yoshimoto Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 54.466 0.794 16
19 Pepe Oriola Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 54.730 1.058 10
20 Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 320 TC 55.002 1.330 3
21 Charles Ng Engstler BMW 320si 55.356 1.684 18
22 Masaki Kano KK BMW 320 TC 55.551 1.879 19
Fabio Fabiani Proteam BMW 320si 58.023 4.351 14

 Qualifying 2 results

Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap Laps
1 Alain Menu Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 53.443 8
2 Yvan Muller Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 53.492 0.049 7
3 Robert Dahlgren Polestar Volvo C30 Drive 53.512 0.069 8
4 Robert Huff Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 53.520 0.077 7
5 Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 320 TC 53.601 0.158 8
6 Tiago Monteiro Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 53.798 0.355 6
7 Michel Nykjaer Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 53.811 0.368 7
8 Gabriele Tarquini Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 53.824 0.381 8
9 Darryl O'Young Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 53.902 0.459 5
10 Colin Turkington Wiechers BMW 320 TC 54.339 0.896 6