Jose Maria Lopez came out on top in the latest fight among the Citroen drivers for World Touring Car Championship pole in Slovakia.
Driving at the Slovakia Ring circuit for the first time this weekend, Lopez ran last in the decisive Q3 session as a result of Q2, and beat the previous best benchmark of Sebastien Loeb by 0.372 seconds.
“It’s always great to be on pole, I didn’t expect this here to be honest, but I tried my best and everything went well,” said Lopez, who has a 12-point lead in the championship. “The car was just great and I thank the team for this.
“All in all, I like very much this circuit, it is very technical and suits well my driving style. Since I discovered it on a simulator, I felt at ease and reality confirmed that.”
Yvan Muller could only manage third, 0.629s off pole and also slower than Loeb, who has prior knowledge of the circuit from last year’s FIA GT Series race, where he won the qualifying race.
Norbert Michelisz was best of the rest throughout qualifying. The Zengo Motorsport Honda driver was quickest in Q1 and then second to Lopez in Q2 before claiming fourth on the grid as the only non-Citroen driver within a second of pole.
Gianni Morbidelli, who halted Citroen’s unbeaten run with race two victory in Hungary last week in his Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet, was the final driver through into Q3.
He denied the similar Cruzes of ROAL Motorsport drivers Tom Chilton and Tom Coronel, who will line up sixth and seventh respectively. Gabriele Tarquini ended up eighth in Q2 after triggering a red flag when his bonnet lifted and he had to stop on track. Hugo Valente was ninth with Tiago Monteiro tenth, claiming pole position for the race two.
Rob Huff squeezed through to Q2 in his Lada, finishing 12th behind Dusan Borkovic.