Gabriele Tarquini - Photo Credit: fiawtcc.com

Tarquini's pole is the first for a car other than a Chevrolet since the penultimate round of 2010 - Photo Credit: fiawtcc.com

Gabriele Tarquini has taken a shock pole position for the first race of the 2012 World Touring Car Championship season at Monza, putting his SEAT Leon ahead of the three factory Chevrolets on the grid.

The veteran Italian, who turned 50 last week, will start from the front of the grid on home soil in his Lukoil-entered car, which is running with a brand new turbocharged engine developed by SEAT Sport. He ends an unbeaten qualifying streak from Chevrolet that began in November 2010.

Reigning world champion Yvan Muller came closest to matching Tarquini in the decisive Q2 session, falling just 0.059s short. Tarquini will have four blue Chevrolet Cruzes immediately behind him on the grid for Sunday's first race, with Rob Huff and Alain Menu sharing the second row of the grid ahead of Scandinavian champion Rickard Rydell on a one-off appearance with Chevrolet Sweden.

A revised qualifying system means that the top five in Q2 also collect points, with Tarquini taking five points down to Rydell taking one.

Tom Coronel was the best of the BMWs in his ROAL-prepared machine in sixth, narrowly ahead of the best of the Yokohama Trophy runners Pepe Oriola in his SEAT. Alex MacDowall will start eighth for his WTCC debut in another Chevrolet, with Tarquini's teammate Aleksei Dudukalo ninth.

Norbert Michelisz qualified in tenth place, and will therefore under the new rules start the second race from pole position in his Zengo BMW.

12 cars are now permitted into Q2, with Stefano D'Aste and Michelisz's new teammate Gabor Weber to start 11th and 12th for both races.

Q1 came to a premature finish when another newcomer, Alberto Cerqui, found the gravel trap at the parabolica with less than two minutes on the clock. Although the session restarted after a red flag, there was no time for anyone to begin a flying lap.

Franz Engstler was the first driver to miss out on Q2 in 13th place, just ahead of the Team Aon duo of James Nash and Tom Chilton who will make their WTCC debuts in their Fords from 14th and 15th places respectively tomorrow.

Tiago Monteiro lost out to yellow and red flags and was left a disappointed 16th in his diesel SEAT, ahead of Cerqui and fellow Italian rookie Pasquale di Sabatino. Charles Ng and Mehdi Bennani were next up in their BMWs, ahead of debutants Andrea Barlesi (SEAT) and Isaac Tutumlu (BMW).

Darryl O'Young was forced to sit out most of the session after suffering a suspected mechanical failure early on. It spells bad news for Special Tuning Racing who were already forced to withdraw Tom Boardman's car due to a lack of parts.

Qualifying 1

Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap Laps
1 Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT Leon WTCC 1:58.004   4
2 Yvan Muller Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:58.191 0.187 6
3 Robert Huff Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:58.243 0.239 7
4 Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 320 TC 1:58.424 0.420 6
5 Alain Menu Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:58.527 0.523 7
6 Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT Leon WTCC 1:58.532 0.528 7
7 Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT Leon WTCC 1:58.942 0.938 6
8 Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 320 TC 1:59.120 1.116 7
9 Rickard Rydell Chevrolet Sweden Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:59.144 1.140 6
10 Stefano D’Aste Wiechers BMW 320 TC 1:59.187 1.183 5
11 Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:59.262 1.258 6
12 Gabor Weber Zengo BMW 320 TC 1:59.350 1.346 6
13 Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 320 TC 1:59.435 1.431 6
14 James Nash Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC 1:59.563 1.559 6
15 Tom Chilton Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC 1:59.723 1.719 6
16 Tiago Monteiro Tuenti SEAT Leon TDi 1:59.743 1.739 7
17 Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW 320 TC 1:59.841 1.837 5
18 Pasquale Di Sabatino Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:59.891 1.887 7
19 Charles Ng Engstler BMW 320 TC 1:59.949 1.945 7
20 Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 320 TC 2:00.300 2.296 8
21 Andrea Barlesi Sunred SEAT Leon TDi 2:00.394 2.390 7
22 Isaac Tutumlu Proteam BMW 320 TC 2:01.333 3.329 7
Darryl O’Young Special Tuning SEAT Leon WTCC     1

Qualifying 2

Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap Laps
1 Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT Leon WTCC 1:57.915   4
2 Yvan Muller Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:57.974 0.059 5
3 Robert Huff Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:58.106 0.191 5
4 Alain Menu Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:58.200 0.285 5
5 Rickard Rydell Chevrolet Sweden Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:58.319 0.404 4
6 Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 320 TC 1:58.389 0.474 5
7 Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT Leon WTCC 1:58.412 0.497 4
8 Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:58.507 0.592 4
9 Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT Leon WTCC 1:58.649 0.734 4
10 Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 320 TC 1:58.652 0.737 4
11 Stefano D’Aste Wiechers BMW 320 TC 1:58.931 1.016 5
12 Gabor Weber Zengo BMW 320 TC 1:59.348 1.433 4