Marrakech, Qual.: López beats Bennani in Morocco pole chase
Lopez claims pole in dramatic session
López was the final driver to mount his bid for first place in Q3, but handled the intense pressure with ease to snatch the ninth top spot of his WTCC career and dash the hopes of the home fans that had been roaring Bennani to what would have been the Moroccan’s maiden pole position, which is presented by DHL, the WTCC’s Official Logistics Partner.
Ma Qing Hua made it an all-Citroën top three on his first visit to Circuit Moulay El Hassan, while Hugo Valente and Tom Chilton turned the formbook on its head to squeeze into Q3 at the expense of several more fancied runners, including round two winner Sébastien Loeb and Honda stars Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini.
As well as lining up first for Sunday’s opening 14-lap contest in front, López scored five championship points. And with Citroën team-mate and early title rival Sébastien Loeb failing to get beyond Q2, Lopez’s bid to make it two FIA World Touring Car Championship titles in succession received another boost. However, the Argentine is expecting a tough challenge on race day when the ambient temperature could exceed 30 degrees centigrade.
“The first step is done but we still have a lot of laps on a circuit that’s very demanding for the car and for the drivers,” said López, who was fastest by 0.255s. “I found a good set-up in Q2 and the lap in Q2 gave me a lot of confidence for Q3. But I still had to find the extra tenths in that unique lap when you have such good team-mates like I have. It’s difficult to go faster at this track without making mistakes but I did a clean lap and I’m very happy.”
Bennani, who was the leading Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy contender, had never taken part in the Q3 one-lap showdown before: “It’s only my second race with the car so to fight for the pole position in my home country gives me a very good feeling and is the only way we can say thanks to everyone who have supported and trusted in me.”
But while Bennani celebrated his best WTCC qualifying performance to date, Hugo Valente ended his impressive Q3 charge in a tyre barrier, while Chilton elected not to run in order to preserve his Chevrolet for race day. Norbert Michelisz was sixth quickest with Monteiro seventh, Loeb eighth, Tom Coronel ninth and Yvan Muller 10th. Coronel had been in contention for Q3 until a mechanical fault ended his hopes. By completing the top 10 In Q2, Muller will start race two from pole under the reverse grid rule.
Italians Tarquini and Stefano D’Aste made it through Q1 but LADA trio Rob Huff, Mikhail Kozlovskiy and James Thompson, plus Dušan Borković, John Filippi and Grégoire Demoustier were not so fortunate.
Sunday’s street races are scheduled for 14 laps with race one starting at 16h15 local time followed by the second race at 17h30.
|Pos.||Driver||Team||Car||Q1 time||Q2 time||Q3 time|
|1||Jose Maria Lopez||Citroen Total WTCC||Citroen||1:43.845||1:43.393||1:43.854|
|2||Mehdi Bennani||Sebastien Loeb Racing||Citroen||1:44.648||1:43.987||1:44.109|
|3||Ma Qing Hua||Citroen Total WTCC||Citroen||1:43.652||1:43.971||1:44.582|
|4||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing||Chevrolet||1:44.378||1:43.882||-:—.---|
|5||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet||1:44.559||1:44.062||-:—.---|
|6||Norbert Michelisz||Zengo Motorsport||Honda||1:44.472||1:44.102|
|7||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda||1:44.250||1:44.118|
|8||Sebastien Loeb||Citroen Total WTCC||Citroen||1:44.185||1:44.150|
|9||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet||1:44.539||1:44.177|
|10||Yvan Muller||Citroen Total WTCC||Citroen||1:43.844||1:44.185|
|11||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda||1:44.339||1:44.313|
|12||Stefano D’Aste||Munnich Motorsport||Chevrolet||1:44.716||1:44.573|
|13||Robert Huff||LADA Sport Rosneft||Lada||1:44.834|
|14||Dusan Borkovic||Proteam Racing||Honda||1:45.087|
|15||John Filippi||Campos Racing||Chevrolet||1:45.773|
|16||James Thompson||LADA Sport Rosneft||Lada||1:46.113|
|17||Grégoire Demoustier||Craft-Bamboo Racing||Chevrolet||1:46.261|
|18||Mikhail Kozlvskiy||LADA Sport Rosneft||Lada||1:46.407|
More on WTCR