Qualifying three was a throw down show down between the two Citroen team mates, Yvan Muller and Pechito Lopez, a straight up duel for pole. This is that fight through the eyes and ears of the Citroen team.
Two-time champion José María López produced a stunning lap to snatch pole position at FIA WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan at Twin Ring Motegi this afternoon, the 20th top spot of his World Touring Car Championship career.
The WTCC points leader was the last driver to take to the 4.801-kilometre track in the Q3 pole shootout, and was able to better the benchmark set by his Citroën team-mate Yvan Muller by eight tenths of a second on his way to the DHL pole on the Main Race grid.
López, whose best lap of 1m55.602s – set in ambient temperatures of 29 degrees centigrade – eclipses Gabriele Tarquini’s race lap record from 2015, now has a 120-point advantage in his bid for a third consecutive world crown after picking up five points for pole, his sixth of 2016.
“As always I have to congratulate Citroën, putting four cars in Q3 and getting a 1-2-3 is a fantastic achievement,” he said. “I had a little more confidence in the car than the others in Q3. The fact that Yvan didn’t improve his lap in Q3 gave me a little more confidence and you don’t have the pressure when he doesn’t improve what he did before. This was a key and that’s why the position you get in Q2 is important because it gives you that advantage. Then it was just about putting it all together. I knew I had to do the same in Q2 but a bit better. The track was improving and I had a fantastic car today, everything I needed. It’s teamwork, not only me and thank you you to them.”
Mehdi Bennani claimed third place as the leading WTCC Trophy competitor in his Sébastien Loeb Racing-run Citroën. Honda driver Tiago Monteiro looked as if he would better Bennani’s time until a mistake in the final sector of the lap, but still secured a place on the second row.
Bennani’s team-mate Tom Chilton also made it to Q3 and finished up fifth. He denied Néstor Girolami a place in the shootout after the returning Argentine had set the pace in both practice sessions, but Girolami still took a fine sixth on his debut for Polestar Cyan Racing.
Nicky Catsburg was the best-placed LADA in seventh in front of the second Volvo driver Thed Björk and Honda men Rob Huff and Norbert Michelisz, who claimed the front row for the Opening Race on Sunday afternoon.
James Thompson and Grégoire Demoustier were the other two drivers to make Q2 and will share row six on the grid, Demoustier impressing with sixth place in Q1. Catsburg’s team-mates Hugo Valente and Gabriele Tarquini were knocked out early on, as were Honda’s local hero Ryo Michigami, John Filippi, Ferenc Ficza, Dániel Nagy and Tom Coronel, who missed the start of Qualifying Q1 while his ROAL Motorsport team rushed to change the engine in his Chevrolet.
|Video by||FIA WTCC|
|Track||Twin Ring Motegi|
|Tags||autos & vehicles|