Chevrolet, SEAT and BMW filled the top three positions at the end of an exciting qualifying session at Valencia today. Yvan Muller claimed pole for tomorrow's Race 1 surviving a sporting penalty that had risked to eliminate him at the end of Q1.
Gabriele Tarquini qualified second, despite a driving mistake on his last attempt in Q2, while Tom Coronel emerged as the third fastest. Spaniard teenager Pepe Oriola beat Rob Huff by 0.033 seconds to achieve a brilliant fourth place overall that was also worth pole position in the Yokohama Trophy.
Stefano D'Aste qualified tenth, and therefore won pole position on the reversed grid for Race 2.
Aleksei Dudukalo's SEAT provided a hot moment after the end of the session, catching fire inside the parc fermé.
Gabriele Tarquini only joined in the second half of the twenty-minute leg, but one lap was enough for him to top the list with the time of 1:42.933, ousting local hero Pepe Oriola's provisional fastest lap of 1:43.340.
A few seconds later Yvan Muller improved the limit to 1:42.459, but his time was disallowed by the Race Director because the World Champion had cut the apex of Turn 1. This jeopardized Muller's position as he risked to miss the cut to Q2. However, on his last attempt, the Frenchman managed to climb to eighth.
The final moments were breathtaking as usual. After sitting in the pit for most of the session, while the team was replacing a broken driveshaft, Tom Coronel posted the fourth fastest lap, kicking his team-mate Alberto Cerqui off the top-12. Aleksei Dudukalo set the third fastest lap of 1:43.230 just before the end, while Alex MacDowall missed a last opportunity to make the cut by one tenth.
The following drivers went through to Q2: Tarquini, Menu, Dudukalo, Coronel, Oriola, O'Young, Huff, Muller, Michelisz, and Engstler.
The first lap out of the pits saw Muller (1:42.352), Tarquini (1:42.591), Coronel (1:42.643) and Oriola (1:42.829) significantly improving the times set so far.
Of the other drivers admitted to Q2, only Rob Huff and Norbert Michelisz seemed capable of subverting this hierarchy.
But Muller was the only one able to improve on the second run, completing a lap of 1:42.228 that consolidated his position on top of the list, while Tarquini spoiled his last attempt with a mistake that sent his car on the gravel.