Yvan Muller, Gabriele Tarquini, Rob Huff and Pepe Oriola - Photo Credit: fiawtcc.com

Smiles all round as Tarquini breaks Chevrolet's domination of qualifying - Photo Credit: fiawtcc.com

Chevrolet motorsport head Eric Neve managed to put a positive spin on qualifying for the opening race of the World Touring Car Championship season at Monza, despite the team's run of pole positions coming to an end.

SEAT driver Gabriele Tarquini was the first non-Chevrolet driver to claim first place in qualifying since October 2010, although the trio of factory Cruzes were able to fill the next three places on the grid.

But Neve was still pleased with his team's start to the season, and admitted that increased competition from other cars would make for a more interesting season.

“It was a very close qualifying session where slipstreaming again played a decisive role,” said Neve. “It's a good start of the season for Chevrolet and it's interesting to see that the gap is narrowing. It is going to be an exciting championship.”

Reigning world champion Yvan Muller missed pole by just 0.059s, but had a similar message to that of his boss.

“I'm pleased with the result,” said the Frenchman. “The work we have done and the team strategy worked as planned. My only concern was that it took a little bit longer to have a clean and fast lap in Q1, so at one point I was out of the top 12, which is always stressful.

“I must congratulate Gabriele for the fantastic lap that gave him pole. I've always said that this 2012 championship is going to be more closely-fought and this first response from the track proves it.”

Third-placed Rob Huff added: “A good day for the team, although we couldn't secure pole. Still, our towing strategy was successful and the car feels good. We are significantly faster than last year in Monza, but I think this is also due to the fact it is much earlier in the year and the turbo and the tires are working better in cooler temperatures.”

Alain Menu, who will line up fourth, commented: “I'm satisfied with the result, although I was surprised to see how different track conditions were in qualifying with respect to free practice. The car was actually oversteering in the morning and understeering in the afternoon, especially in key points such as the Parabolica and the Lesmo corners.”