The Chevrolet Cruze continues to dominate proceedings in the World Touring Car Championship despite the absence of the factory team, as Yvan Muller took a commanding pole position for the season opener at Monza ahead of fellow Chevrolet drivers Tom Chilton and Alex MacDowall.
Frenchman Muller clocked a best time of 1m56.486s in the second segment of qualifying. His new RML teammate Chilton was closest to him, albeit 0.859s behind as Muller maintained the healthy advantage he showed in practice.
Bamboo Engineering driver MacDowall was top Yokohama Trophy runner in third, nearly 1.2s adrift of Muller.
Pepe Oriola was the top SEAT in fourth place in his Tuenti Racing Team entry, just ahead of Gabriele Tarquini on his debut for the factory Honda team.
James Nash fell three tenths short of teammate MacDowall, ending his first qualifying session with the Chevrolet in sixth place but one spot ahead of Nika Racing Cruze driver Michel Nykjaer.
Marc Basseng will make his WTCC debut from eighth for Munnich Motorsport, whose lead driver Rob Huff was eliminated at the start of qualifying when he made contact with the BMW of Fredy Barth, breaking the suspension on his SEAT and bringing out a red flag.
James Thompson took ninth in his Lada despite sustaining heavy damage in a Q1 accident of his own when teammate Aleksei Dudukalo careered into him under braking for turn 1. Darryl O’Young was tenth, claiming the reverse grid pole position for race two in his new ROAL Motorsport BMW.
Fernando Monje and the now-self-run Stefano D’Aste completed the runners who made it into the top twelve shootout.
Amongst those missing out was the second factory Honda of Tiago Monteiro in a lowly 15th, Dudukalo in 16th and Tom Coronel in 17th, seven tenths of a second slower than new teammate O’Young’s Q1 time. Norbert Michelisz was 21st of the 24 drivers in his own Zengo Motorsport-run Honda.