Lopez goes in search of his sixth win this year tomorrow in Argentina.
The Argentine was fastest in Q2 and Q3, eventually taking the pole in 1:43.766, beating his team mates Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb, who both did some small mistakes in their decisive attempts, by over four tenths of a second.
I tried hard as always, but it wasn’t my best qualifying lap.
Behind the Citroën trio, the Honda cars showed good form although they could have hoped in better results after free practices. The fastest among the Japanese cars was Norbert Michelisz’s despite the Hungarian having missed the testing session on Friday because of an adventurous plane travel from Europe.
Tiago Monteiro was fifth, with Gabriele Tarquini and Mehdi Bennani in the top eight as well. Tom Chilton was the fastest Chevrolet RML driver, while Rob Huff, who made it to Q2 with the LADA Granta, will start from the pole in Race 2 by virtue of his tenth fastest time in Q2.
Franz Engstler repeated himself in the TC2 category, taking yet another class pole.
Qualifying started with hot weather and Norbert Michelisz putting fastest time in the initial stages, with a time of 1:45.139, preceding López, Chilton, Loeb and Münnich. After a handful of minutes, Bennani posted the second-fastest lap, putting two Honda cars on top, whilst the works Civic cars of Monteiro and Tarquini were still lying in the last positions, having both aborted attempts. Things went back to normal in the second half of the Q1, when Muller (1:44.962) and López (1:44.795) took control, with Monteiro (3rd) and Tarquini (5th) finally among the top five. But Michelisz put everybody behind with a last lap of 1:44.696.
The following drivers advanced to Q2: Michelisz, López, Muller, Monteiro, Tarquini, Bennani, Chilton, Münnich, Coronel, Huff and Valente. Camilo Echevarría’s car was again plagued by misfiring problems and was able to complete only one lap.
López dominated from the beginning (1.44.128) ahead of Muller, Michelisz, Bennani and Monteiro, before breaking the 1:43. threshold with a time of 1:43.813 on his second attempt that left Loeb 315 thousandths behind and Muller a further 70 thousandths adrift. Michelisz kept fourth place for most part of the session, with the fifth place switching from Bennani to Monteiro in the dying moments.
Chilton and Tarquini missed the cut just like Bennani, Valente and Huff; the latter winning pole for Race 2.
The decisive part of the session had an orderly development, with the top five going on track and finishing almost in perfect reverse order. Monteiro set a time of 1:45.174, being disappointed by a slight mistake done in Turn 9. Michelisz took fourth with a lap of 1:44.408, and Muller was eventually second with a time of 1:44.194 after a lap he described as ‘too cautious’. Loeb who took the track as fourth lost a little bit over one tenth from Muller, after two small mistakes. López took the track as the last one and put in a faultless lap to take pole in 1:43.766.
José María López: “If there is a place where you want to do well, it is at your home event, so I am delighted of this pole. Of course, it is a different and special race for me: all my family is here, as well as many friends, a lot of fans and local media. I try to share some time with them and to please everybody, and yes, that adds some emotional pressure. But when time comes to be behind the wheel, I try to stay focused on the work to be done and do my best. We worked well with the entire team, and the car has proven to be strong, although we had our little issues because this is not an easy track at all. I didn’t know what to expect from Q3, but everything came along nicely and tomorrow we’ll try to do our best.”
Yvan Muller: “I tried hard as always, but it wasn’t my best qualifying lap. I had some oversteer throughout the day and that was the case also in qualifying. In Q3, the rear sled a bit and I lost time. After that, I was maybe a little bit too cautious because I wanted to avoid another mistake, especially in the last corner, which is very tricky. Tomorrow, I will try to use the position in front row to make a good start…”
Sébastien Loeb: “My pace was good in my Q3 attempt, but then second sector was not good at all. I did small mistakes in turns 7 and 9, and then again in turn 13, so that was it. It’s a track where it is very difficult to find the right balance and the right pace, you find yourself quickly beyond the limit, but it is definitely an interesting track for driving.”
Franz Engstler: “It’s a tricky track, if I may say so, not easy to avoid mistakes. Still, I learnt a lot from yesterday’s session and we did a good job with my team. My Argentine team mate, Camilo Echevarría is a young and talented driver and I think we will have two very interesting races tomorrow.”