Touring car veteran Alain Menu has claimed the 13th pole position of his World Touring Car Championship career after claiming top spot in qualifying for the Race of Morocco on the streets of Marrakech.
The Swiss driver defeated Chevrolet teammate Rob Huff by just 0.028 seconds, having already set the pace during the Q1 session.
“It was a very close qualifying,” said Menu. “My first try was not as good as I wanted and so I had to try my best in the last lap. I pushed as much as I could, especially in the third sector and my pole position lap was very good.
“Although it was not as good as the one I set in Q1. It was difficult, because on this track when you push so much you could make mistakes. And you pay them dearly, so I'm very happy that all went well on that last lap.”
Huff said: “We knew from the practice that qualifying would have been very close. Obviously losing pole position by 28 thousandths has been disappointing. The set up of our car was very good for this track, so it could happen to any of us to claim pole on the last lap. All in all I'm very pleased to start from the front row, because my goal for tomorrow is to score points for the championship.”
Tom Coronel hadn't been amongst the frontrunners in his BMW during testing or free practice, but the Dutchman was in provisional pole position until being displaced by the Chevy duo's final efforts.
“I was surprised by the speed of our car,” Coronel said, having ended up just 0.067s away from pole. “I was trying to stay behind the Chevrolet cars and I found myself setting a provisional fastest time!
“My car was just flying in the chicanes. I couldn't believe it because I had been more than one second slower in practice. For sure aspiration behind the Menu and Huff helped. And now I'm in a very good position for the races, hoping for them to make some mistakes.”
Championship leader Yvan Muller was three tenths slower than Menu so had to settle for fourth. Gabriele Tarquini posted the fifth fastest time, but his SEAT was subsequently found to have been running underweight and so he was excluded from both Q1 and Q2, meaning he will start both Sunday's races from the back of the grid.
Pepe Oriola inherited the position of top SEAT on the grid, having already qualified as the top Yokohama Trophy runner. Alex MacDowall will start sixth, having outqualified fellow Brit Tom Chilton. Team Aon made it into Q2 for the first time, and with both of their Ford Focuses, with James Nash set to line up tenth for race one and in pole position for race two.
Franz Engstler and Tiago Monteiro took eighth and ninth between the two Aon drivers, with Stefano D'Aste completing the top 12.