Jose Maria Lopez Dominates WTCC Qualifying on Nurburgring Nordschleife

Jose Maria Lopez

Jose Maria Lopez was in command in the qualifying session for the World Touring Car Championship’s first visit to the Nurburgring Nordschleife.

In a straight one-hour session to set the grid – the championship’s usual three-part format eschewed for the 25.378-kilometre circuit – Lopez improved his laptime over the course of three flying efforts to finish up 1.252 seconds clear of the field.

“If there was a pole I wanted it was this one,” said Lopez afterwards. “It’s something amazing to be on limit on this track and there is not a word to explain what I feel.

“I am enjoying a lot this car and this team. I knew it was the moment of truth because even though I was quickest in testing you never know if everything is going to go in the right direction. I knew how much the track had improved and it’s a good feeling to do my fastest lap on the last lap.”

For the second round in a row, Campos Chevrolet driver Hugo Valente got among the Citroens to qualify second.

“I would like to thank Campos and RML for the work they have done since Argentina,” said Valente.

“We have come a long way after the difficult brake issues we had over there and to be second for the second time in a row is a great achievement.

“I am a bit disappointed not to get pole because you always want more as a racing driver. But Pechito was just too fast today, which he is most of the time I guess but one day, one year I will get there.”

Sebastien Loeb demonstrated his skills for driving a long and twisty course with the third best time ahead of Zengo Honda driver Norbert Michelisz, fresh from his home victory at the Hungaroring a fortnight ago.

Ma Qing Hua finished up fifth despite a crash in the final minutes, and limited Yvan Muller to the status of the slowest of the four factory-entered Citroens in sixth overall.

The top ten was completed by Mehdi Bennani, Gabriele Tarquini, Tom Coronel and Tiago Monteiro, the Portuguese Honda driver beating Tom Chilton and Hugo Valente to the reverse grid pole for race two.

Jaap van Lagen, making his WTCC return for Lada, had gone quickest in the first free practice session but engine issues stopped him from setting a time and also hampered team-mate Rob Huff, limiting the Briton to 13th.

Nordschleife expert Sabine Schmitz was 15th, one spot behind Munnich Chevrolet team-mate Stefano D’Aste.