José-María López, who has led the FIA WTCC standings all season, picked up his second pole position of the year at the Moscow Raceway.
Unlike at previous meetings, the drivers only had one hour of free practice to get to grips with the track. Yvan Muller used his experience from last year to clock the fastest time in each of the two sessions. Most of the drivers were sorely lacking grip and there was plenty of slipping and sliding at the most challenging corners of the Russian circuit.
It didn’t look like there was any prospect of conditions improving, after a thunderstorm soaked the track an hour before qualifying was due to start. But the sun came back out so quickly that the track was dry by the time Q1 got underway. By the end of the first twenty minutes, the four Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs had all won a place in Q2 by making it into the top 12.
The second session was much more closely-contested. José-María López clocked the best time, 4 hundredths of a second ahead of Gabriele Tarquini. Sébastien Loeb also secured a spot in Q3, with the third-fastest time. Yvan Muller, however, made a few minor errors, struggling to get a clear lap in. He was in fifth place with just a few seconds to go, but Tiago Monteiro ousted him at the last! After finishing the session in 9th place, Ma Qing Hua has secured himself an excellent starting position for race 2: the driver of C-Elysée WTCC n°33 will start from the front row.
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Racing: “Race after race, we are seeing qualifying get closer and closer. Today, more than ever, you really had to produce a perfect lap to win pole position, and that’s what Pechito López did. Sébastien Loeb, meanwhile, didn’t have a good Q3 and was pushed back into fourth place. Unfortunately, Yvan Muller wasn’t able to make it through to the final qualifying session, but he did enough to give himself a chance of points in both races. The other thing I’m really happy about is the performance of Ma Qing Hua. He kept on getting better and he can set his sights on a podium spot in race 2.”
José-María López: “I didn’t expect to find myself in pole position, particularly after free practice! I was a little bit nervous, because this is a very demanding circuit and I don’t know all the ins and outs of it yet. There are some corners where it is hard to judge how the car is going to handle. I made progress by looking at the data from my teammates and I felt like I made a real breakthrough at the start of Q1. We all work together and we share information openly.”
Sébastien Loeb: “The car was sensitive to drive and I tried to attack too much. In Q3, I think I must have made at least one error per corner! I could definitely have done better, but it’s still a creditable result.”
Yvan Muller: “What can I say? I’m annoyed with myself! I made two little mistakes at the start of Q2 and I didn’t manage to clock a convincing time. My tyres were gone, but I carried on to make sure I got a top-ten time. Then Tiago Monteiro produced a great lap and snatched 5th place off me. That’s racing…”
Ma Qing Hua: “It was a good start for me in my first race with Citroën Racing. The conditions changed a lot from one session to the next. I think that is particularly difficult for me due to my lack of experience. I ran into a lot of traffic in Q2. Without that, I could have done better. But I’m in a good position for race 2, so it’s a positive result.”
1. José-María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 1’38’’651
2. Gabriele Tarquini (Honda Civic WTCC) 1’38’’877
3. Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC) 1’39’’166
4. Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 1’39’’580
5. Tom Chilton (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1) 1’39’’698
6. Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
7. Mehdi Bennani (Honda Civic WTCC)
8. Norbert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC)
9. Ma Qing Hua (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
10. Hugo Valente (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)