It was a Citroën 1-2-3 at the Slovakia Ring.
The fact that the Argentine was visiting the track for the first time seemed no disadvantage whatsoever for Pechito, who beat team-mates Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller by over three and six tenths of a second respectively, securing another Citroën’s 1-2-3.
Norbert Michelisz and Gianni Morbidelli took fourth and fifth, allowing Honda and Chevrolet RML to be represented in Q3. Q1 cast an unusual ranking, with ten cars within 8 tenths and Michelisz leading over Valente, Muller, Coronel and Tarquini. Things though changed in Q2, where López took power, in a session that was red-flagged because of the incident that involved Tarquini, whose front bonnet got loose, covering the windscreen of the Honda which had to stop on track.
By virtue of their 10th and 9th position in Q1, Morbidelli and Monteiro will be in first row for Race 2, while the BMW cars of Engstler and Di Sabatino dominated qualifying among TC2 cars once again.
After Coronel (2.05.309) and Muller (2.05.114), it’s Norbert Michelisz signing what will be the best time (2.05.014) in a lively Q1 session, which saw the first ten cars within 8 tenths of a second. Hugo Valente put again a strong performance, clinching second-fastest time ahead Muller, Coronel and Tarquini. Loeb and López were sixth and seventh ahead of Chilton, Monteiro and Morbidelli, with Huff taking the last spot in the top 12.
There were turbine problems for both Bennani and Kozlovskiy, who could only do two laps each, while the mechanics worked on Loeb’s car (rear suspension) and Münnich had a couple of off-tracks. Engstler was the fastest man in TC2, ahead of team-mate Di Sabatino.
The ten-minute session was disturbed mid-way by a red flag, following the incident suffered by Tarquini, who had the engine cover of his Honda opening, leaving him with no sight and obliging him to stop on the track.
The Italian’s car was narrowly missed by Monteiro and Huff who were behind and had to go out of the track. In the meantime, Loeb’s mechanics were frantically working on the engine of his car.
Once the session resumed, Michelisz posted an excellent 2.04.680 which was only to be beaten by López (2.04.038) in the closing moments. Loeb took third ahead of Muller and Morbidelli, who makes it to Q3 for the first time.
Morbidelli was the first driver to take the track but remained two tenths behind his Q2 time. Then Muller signed a time of 2.04.541, two tenths under his previous time and Loeb took provisional pole with 2.04.284. With Michelisz staying three tenths off his Q2 time, the last driver on track, López had a good opportunity to go for the pole.
The Argentine had no hesitations and went under the 2’04’’ threshold, posting a time of 2.03.912 that beat all competitors.
José María López: “It’s always great to be on pole, I didn’t expect this here to be honest, but I tried my best and everything went well. The car was just great and I thank the team for this. Since the beginning of the weekend, I have been very fast in the first sector, this was true in Q3 as well, and gave me confidence for the second sector. In the third sector during my Q3 lap, I ran a little bit wide in the penultimate corner and my braking ahead of last corner wasn’t great, maybe the front tires started to get worn. All in all, I like very much this circuit, it is very technical and suits well my driving style. Since I discovered it on a simulator, I felt at ease and reality confirmed that.”
Sébastien Loeb: “Today it wasn’t easy at all, as I could feel the pressure of my team mates and I had been struggling a bit with the set-up in the free practice. In qualifying too, I had a few problems, first with misfiring and then with something in the rear suspension. So, it was quite a tense session and I feel happy to be in second. This is a beautiful track, where I have raced in GT and therefore I know, but it remains a difficult track: because it is quite flat, it’s easy to make mistakes in corners and braking points.”
Yvan Muller: “I basically spoiled all my chances to sign the pole at first corner, where I ran wide. Then I simply tried to catch up and drive as clean as possible, but third is the best I could get. It is difficult to find the right balance on this track and the start and first two corners will be crucial tomorrow.”
Franz Engstler: “I am very happy with the performance of the car, which has improved a lot from Budapest, and I need to thank BMW for their support. They sent a new engineer and the many things we have been testing have brought their fruits, especially in top speed, as shown today.”