Citroen driver Jose Maria Lopez took pole position for the last round of the 2015 World Touring Car Championship at Losail, Qatar.
Lopez will head best-placed independents’ trophy driver Mehdi Bennani on the front row, with Sebastien Loeb securing a Citroen 1-2-3.
During the first part of qualifying, Lopez led the way with a time of 2m01.421s, with all the improvements coming late in the session as qualifying was the first track activity since last night.
As the grip level increased, the times tumbled and Lopez ended up the pacesetter ahead of Bennani and Ma Qing Hua.
Hugo Valente was again the closest challenger to the Citroens in his Campos Chevrolet, while Nicky Catsburg put in a late flyer to go fifth fastest in the Lada Vesta.
A persistent handling issue, however, saw 2012 champion Rob Huff fall out in Q1, qualifying down in 17th position, with the Chevrolets of Stefano D’Aste, Gregoire Demoustier, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Tom Chilton failing to make the cut, as did the Honda of Gabriele Tarquini, who qualified in a lowly 14th.
In Q2, with two minutes a lap and ten minutes to set a time, there was only really opportunity for one run for all drivers. 11 of the drivers set their times at the start of the session, with Lopez again topping the timesheets ahead of Campos Racing’s Valente.
Tiago Monteiro sat tenth for Honda, ahead of Lada’s Nicolas Lapierre 11th and set to take reverse-grid pole. However, Catsburg produced the third-fastest time late on, putting himself in the top-five shootout and knocking Monteiro down to 11th.
As a result, it was Campos Racing’s John Filippi who finished the session tenth and will start the reverse-grid second race from pole position, with Tom Coronel alongside, and Citroen’s Yvan Muller lining up third after qualifying just eighth, while Ma and Norbert Michelisz were seventh and sixth.
In the top-five shootout, Bennani set the first benchmark of 2m01.311s which couldn’t be bettered by the three cars that followed him, with Loeb, Valente and Catsburg all unable to improve on Bennani’s time.
However, series champion Lopez continued his form of the weekend in leading every session, as he set a time of 2m00.947s, the first driver under 2m01s, almost four-tenths of a second in the clear.
|1||Jose Maria Lopez||Citroen||2'00.947|
|7||Ma Qing Hua||Citroen||2'02.194||1.247|
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes