Alain Menu will start the first World Touring Car Championship’s first race in the United States from pole position after beating Gabriele Tarquini to top spot in qualifying in Sonoma.

Tarquini held first place in his SEAT after the first laps in the decisive Q2 session, but an off-track excursion on his second run ruined his chances of lowering his benchmark. Chevrolet’s leading drivers Yvan Muller and Rob Huff both failed to improve and had to settle for third and fourth on the grid respectively, but Menu managed to better Tarquini’s effort by 0.236 seconds and get his second pole of the season.

Norbert Michelisz was the best of the rest and of the Yokohama Trophy runners in fifth in his Zengo Motorsport BMW ahead of the bamboo Chevrolet of Alex MacDowall. Seventh was Tiago Monteiro’s Leon ahead of four BMW drivers who found improved pace in the 320 TC from the earlier practice sessions – Franz Engstler, Mehdi Bennani, Stefano D’Aste and Alberto Cerqui. 12th will be Aleksei Dudukalo, who got through to Q2 but was unable to go out after sliding off track and causing a red flag towards the end of Q1.

Team Aon’s Fords did not show the same pace they had during the practice sessions and could only manage 13th and 17th respectively with James Nash and Tom Chilton. Between them on the grid will be Charles Ng’s BMW and the SEATs of Fernando Monje and Darryl O’Young. While BMW found speed for qualifying, SEAT lost it, with two more Leons driven by Pepe Oriola and Tom Boardman qualifying behind Chilton, even though Boardman had the fourth best time in FP2.

Things were worse for Tom Coronel, who could only manage 20th in his BMW. American Robb Holland will make his WTCC debut from 21st and last in the second bamboo Chevrolet.

Sunday’s races take place at 20.20 and 21:35 BST, live on Eurosport.