Alain Menu scored his second consecutive pole position in the World Touring Car Championship in qualifying for the Race of Japan at Suzuka.
The Swiss driver came out on top of another all-Chevrolet battle for pole position, as the marque sealed the Manufacturers’ title.
Having topped both of the morning’s free practice sessions, Menu was again the man to beat in Q2, producing a time of 52.885 seconds around the shorter East course on his first attempt. Muller fell just short with a 52.950, while Huff could only manage 53.054 on his second attempt.
“It was a great result because it helped sanctioning Chevrolet’s title in the Manufacturers’ Trophy,” said Menu. “This is a very difficult track and it’s easy to make mistakes. Even more than at Sonoma, since this track is shorter and quicker. I have been on top since the beginning of the track activities, but Yvan and Rob have always been very close. I think any of us could have won pole position today.”
Muller said: “Today you could win or lose pole position because of a marginal mistake. I had looked for the limit of the car in practice and it helped. In qualifying my car was good and I was trying to push as hard as I could. But obviously it was not enough to beat Alain. Anyway, better than nothing, I have pocketed one more point compared to Rob. Now every little thing counts for the title fight.”
Huff added: “I did my best to improve the time in my second run. It was really the best lap I’ve driven since I’ve been here. The track was a bit hard and I did improve on my second lap so I’m a little disappointed to be the third. As Yvan said, we keep trying harder and harder to qualify and win the races. Driving fast but not taking any risks and make sure that we keep the Championship as close as possible.”
Alex MacDowall made it a Chevrolet lockout of the top four in his bamboo engineering machine, with a 53.206.
“It’s been a long time since I qualified independent pole,” said the Cumbrian. “I think Suzuka suits my style, as I am a smooth driver. I’m happy because this was my best overall qualifying result and it’s great to be behind these three guys who are the best in the world. I’m gonna try my best to keep up with them tomorrow, and hopefully if one of them makes a mistake, I can maybe overtake. But my main goal is to finish top of the Yokohama trophy.”
Mehdi Bennani was impressively the best of the rest in his BMW, narrowly edging out Gabriele Tarquini’s SEAT by 0.035s. Tom Coronel was seventh, with Aleksei Dudukalo pipping fellow SEAT man Pepe Oriola to eighth. Stefano D’Aste completed the top ten and will therefore start race two from the reverse grid pole position.
Tiago Monteiro only just missed out that honour in the brand new Honda Civic, which got through to Q2 thanks to a last gasp effort from the Portuguese man and then ended up 11th of the 12 runners in Q2. Darryl O’Young took 12th on his return to the bamboo Chevrolet after a costly mistake in the final turn.
The BMWs of Franz Engstler and Norbert Michelisz were the first of those to miss out on Q2 and will start both races from the seventh row ahead of the SEATs of Tom Boardman, Fernando Monje and local returnee Hiroki Yoshimoto. The Team Aon Fords of James Nash and Tom Chilton were a disappointing 19th and 21st, with Boardman’s new Special Tuning teammate Rene Munnich 22nd and another local Masaki Kano 23rd and last in his normally-aspirated BMW.