Vila Real, Qual.: López the Real deal with Portugal pole
Valente impressed with the third quickest time
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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