Vila Real, Qual.: López the Real deal with Portugal pole

Valente impressed with the third quickest time

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By Olivier Ferret

11 July 2015 - 18:10
Vila Real, Qual.: López the Real (...)

José María López has given himself the best possible chance of claiming more FIA World Touring Car Championship silverware with a blitzing run in Qualifying for OSCARO.com WTCC Race of Portugal to land his fourth pole position of 2015 and five additional WTCC points.

López was the last driver to gun for top spot in a dramatic five-car shootout but a sensational performance handed him the advantage by 0.575s after he lapped the 4.755-kilometre Vila Real street track in 1m59.179s at an average speed of 143.6kph. “It’s not only my lap but my engineer’s lap and my mechanics’ lap because they worked hard for this,” said López, who received a special pole position award from Ni Amorim, the Vice President of the FPAK, Portugal’s motorsport federation. “With Yvan [Mulller] not in Q3 I was more relaxed and that gave me the confidence to do a clean lap without the mistakes. I was surprised when I saw the time but it’s a good feeling to be back on the pole position.”

Nine-time world rally champion Sébastien Loeb continued his recent strong run of form to make it an all-Citroën front row with Hugo Valente (Chevrolet Cruze) the top Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy contender in a fine third, one place ahead of category rival Norbert Michelisz, who ended up as the top Honda driver in fourth. Gabriele Tarquini also made it into Q3 and will start fifth alongside Honda team-mate and local hero Tiago Monteiro, who came within one place of making it through to the pole showdown.

Nicky Catsburg starts the first of Sunday’s 13-lap contests in seventh with fellow LADA driver Jaap van Lagen eighth. Yvan Muller, López’s arch-rival for the WTCC title, was ninth with Ma Qing Hua in P10 and on the provisional pole spot for the reverse grid second race.

Contact with a trackside barrier prevented a flying lap in Q2 for Mehdi Bennani, who will start in P11. Néstor Girolami advanced to Q2 for the first time in his short WTCC career but damage to the front-left wheel of his Honda Racing team Sweden Civic ruled out further progression and resulted in the session being red-flagged to allow the recovery of his stricken car. He lines up in P12. Toms Chilton and Coronel, Stefano D’Aste, Grégoire Demoustier, John Filippi and Rob Huff all failed to make it through Q1 with Coronel incensed at Ma Qing Hua, suggesting he had baulked him on his flying lap in the closing moments of the session. However, the race stewards deemed that no judicial action was necessary against Ma. Meanwhile, Huff blamed his lack of pace on set-up issues caused by delays replacing damaged wheel hubs.

Pos. Driver Team Car Q1 time Q2 time Q3 time
1 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1:59.393 1:59.179 1:58.515
2 Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1:59.860 1:59.455 1:59.090
3 Hugo Valente Campos Racing Chevrolet 2:01.183 1:59.908 1:59.333
4 Norbert Michelisz Zengo Motorsport Honda 2:00.048 1:59.709 2:00.023
5 Gabriele Tarquini Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 2:00.250 1:59.632 -:—.---
---------- -------- -------- -------- --------- ---------
6 Tiago Monteiro Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 2:00.235 2:00.349
7 Nicky Catsburg LADA Sport Rosneft Lada 2:01.148 2:01.724
8 Jaap Van Lagen LADA Sport Rosneft Lada 2:00.956 2:02.187
9 Yvan Muller Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 2:00.548 2:39.871
10 Ma Qing Hua Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 2:00.847 3:17.063
11 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 2:00.485 -:—.---
12 Nestor Girolami Nika International Honda 2:00.600 -:—.---
---------- -------- -------- -------- --------- ---------
13 Tom Chilton ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 2:01.185
14 Robert Huff LADA Sport Rosneft Lada 2:01.186
15 Stefano D’Aste Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet 2:01.333
16 Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 2:01.338
17 John Filippi Campos Racing Chevrolet 2:04.538
18 Grégoire Demoustier Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet 2:05.128

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