After setting the pace in the test and free practice sessions, Alain Menu was again the man to beat in qualifying for the WTCC Race of Japan at Suzuka, taking pole position in an extremely close session.
In Q1, it was series returnee Colin Turkington who posted the fastest time in his Wiechers-Sport BMW, ahead of Michel Nykjaer, Gabriele Tarquini, Menu, Robert Dahlgren, Tiago Monteiro, title rivals Yvan Muller and Rob Huff, Tom Coronel and Darryl O'Young. This gives the Chinese driver pole position for the second race.
The first session was interrupted by a red flag when Pepe Oriola crashed heavily at the exit of the final turn. The young Spaniard ended up 20th of the 24 runners, but has been given a five place grid penalty for changing his engine.
Rally driver Toshi Arai could only manage 16th after showing strong pace in practice in the fourth factory Chevrolet. He then had all his times disallowed for not stopping at the weighing bridge.
In Q2 most of the drivers set their best times on their first attempts at a flying lap. Menu edged out Muller by 0.049 seconds to take pole position. Dahlgren improved on his second effort to prevent a Chevrolet lockout of the top three by beating Huff to third place. The Briton was only 0.077s behind Menu's time.
Coronel also improved to take fifth ahead of the Sunred trio of Monteiro, Nykjaer and Tarquini. O'Young and Turkington will share the fifth row of the grid for the first race.
The result gave Menu his third pole of the year, and extended Chevrolet's complete domination of qualifying this year.
“On my best lap I had a huge oversteer at turn seven and then the car went the other way going into Turn 8, so I didn't think it was a good lap time,” he said. “So I'm very happy that I still got the pole. For Q2, it started to drizzle a little bit. It was hardly anything, so I think we all thought it would be OK, but it was enough to make a few corners very slippery.”
Muller said: “Well done to Alain. He deserved it, he did a great lap. I am pleased with second place, especially because after my first lap in Q2 I was not really feeling the car. We did a small change, and the balance was much better. I'm second and Rob is behind me, and that is the main thing.”
Dahlgren added: “The Chevrolets have done a great job. I thought I might have had a chance to do something in qualifying, but unfortunately on my first lap I went off a bit and on the second one it was slippery and I went off again. We'll look at the data and everyone will say, 'oh, I could have gone this much faster', but there are two races tomorrow and I think it will be very interesting if we have good race speed as well.”
Qualifying 1 result (top ten reversed for race two grid)
|1||Colin Turkington||Wiechers||BMW 320 TC||53.672||16|
|2||Michel Nykjaer||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||53.725||0.053||6|
|3||Gabriele Tarquini||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||53.734||0.062||10|
|4||Alain Menu||Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||53.748||0.076||10|
|5||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar||Volvo C30 Drive||53.760||0.088||8|
|6||Tiago Monteiro||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||53.871||0.199||12|
|7||Yvan Muller||Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||53.893||0.221||7|
|8||Robert Huff||Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||53.937||0.265||9|
|9||Tom Coronel||ROAL||BMW 320 TC||53.943||0.271||11|
|10||Darryl O'Young||Bamboo||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||53.956||0.284||12|
|11||Javier Villa||Proteam||BMW 320 TC||54.006||0.334||19|
|12||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||54.070||0.398||17|
|13||Norbert Michelisz||Zengo||BMW 320 TC||54.073||0.401||16|
|14||Kristian Poulsen||Engstler||BMW 320 TC||54.126||0.454||14|
|15||Aleksei Dudukalo||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||54.127||0.455||16|
|16||Franz Engstler||Engstler||BMW 320 TC||54.219||0.547||18|
|17||Fredy Barth||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||54.411||0.739||15|
|18||Hiroki Yoshimoto||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||54.466||0.794||16|
|19||Pepe Oriola||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||54.730||1.058||10|
|20||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam||BMW 320 TC||55.002||1.330||3|
|21||Charles Ng||Engstler||BMW 320si||55.356||1.684||18|
|22||Masaki Kano||KK||BMW 320 TC||55.551||1.879||19|
|Fabio Fabiani||Proteam||BMW 320si||58.023||4.351||14|
Qualifying 2 results
|1||Alain Menu||Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||53.443||8|
|2||Yvan Muller||Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||53.492||0.049||7|
|3||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar||Volvo C30 Drive||53.512||0.069||8|
|4||Robert Huff||Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||53.520||0.077||7|
|5||Tom Coronel||ROAL||BMW 320 TC||53.601||0.158||8|
|6||Tiago Monteiro||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||53.798||0.355||6|
|7||Michel Nykjaer||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||53.811||0.368||7|
|8||Gabriele Tarquini||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||53.824||0.381||8|
|9||Darryl O'Young||Bamboo||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||53.902||0.459||5|
|10||Colin Turkington||Wiechers||BMW 320 TC||54.339||0.896||6|