Lopez (Citroen) starts the season on pole
José María López won the first qualifying shootout in WTCC history and this was the icing on the cake for Citroën on their maiden appearance in the series. The C-Elisée cars dominated the field, filling the three top spots in each session of this season’s opener at Marrakech. Eventually Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb qualified in second and third, but any of them could have been on pole as well. The Citroën party was spoiled a bit by a decision of the Stewards who disallowed Muller’s time after he cut a chicane in Q3. This demoted him to fourth and promoted Loeb and Tom Chilton to second and third respectively.
The Chevrolet RML cars were the closest competitors for the Citroën, but their fastest drivers – Chilton, Hugo Valente, Tom Coronel and Dušan Borković – were more than one-and-a-half second behind.
It was not a happy day for Honda and Lade. The Japanese manufacturer lost Gabriele Tarquini’s Civic after the crash in practice two and saw its remaining three cars dropped after Q2. As for Lada, only James Thompson’s Granta qualified for Q2, but went no further.
The Citroën trio booked their spots for Q2 in the early stages, with Muller, Loeb and López filling the first three spots ahead of four Chevrolet drivers: Chilton, Valente, Coronel and Borković. Mehdi Bennani was the best of the Honda men, while Thompson was the only Lada driver to advance to Q2. Franz Engstler was fastest in the TC2T class. The session was red-flagged forty seconds before the end when Petr Fulín crashed at T11. John Filippi did not take part in the session due to an engine problem. The following drivers went through to Q2: Muller, Loeb, López, Chilton, Valente, Coronel, Borković, Bennani, Michelisz, Monteiro, Thompson and Münnich.
Loeb, López and Muller were classified in the order, covered by only five thousandths of a second, to lead the rest of the field. A brilliant Borković and Chilton claimed the two remaining spots for Q3. Coronel qualified in tenth and won pole position on the reversed grid for Race 2; Bennani will take the start alongside him on the front row.
López won pole position thanks to a record split time in the third sector that helped him to beat Muller by 18 thousandths of a second. The same third sector relegated Loeb in third position after he had set the best split times in the first second sectors. Chilton posted the fourth fastest lap, while Borković was black flagged as he had exited the pitlane before he was allowed to do.