Sébastien Loeb and Citroën Racing backed up their dominating performance in Marrakech last week by taking the first three spots on the grid for race one this weekend.
Sébastien Loeb continued to impress in his first WTCC season. After scoring his maiden victory in Marrakech last week, he won his first pole position today at Le Castellet.
On the track he knows better among those that host the championship, Loeb improved in each part of the qualifying session. Second behind Yvan Muller in Q1 (one tenth slower) and Q2 (with a gap of 0.07 seconds) the former rally ace clocked the fastest lap in Q3, beating José María López by 0.09 and Muller by 0.33.
One of the first persons to congratulate Loeb was His Serene Highness the Prince Albert of Monaco who was visiting the WTCC paddock invited by Daniel Elena, Loeb’s former co-driver.
Behind the Citroën trio, Honda and Chevrolet cars fought for the other positions. Eventually Gabriele Tarquini pipped Hugo Valente to secure fourth position, while Norbert Michelisz and Tom Chilton were the first two drivers who remained out of Q3.
Tiago Monteiro qualified in tenth, which will give him pole position on the reverse grid for tomorrow’s second race. John Filippi provided the icing on the cake for the French fans, posting the fastest lap in the TC2T class.
Qualifying 1 Just like in Marrakech, it took only one lap to the Citroën trio to secure their places in Q2: Yvan Muller (1:30.269), Sébastien Loeb (1:30.369) and José María López (1:30.782) posted the three fastest laps. Eventually Hugo Valente managed to climb to third with a last lap of 1:30.644, demoting López to fourth. Tom Chilton (1:30.932) and Gianni Morbidelli (1:31.042) posted the fifth and sixth fastest laps respectively, ahead of the Honda Civic cars of Norbert Michelisz (1:31.110) and Gabriele Tarquini (1:31.198). John Filippi’s SEAT took pole position in the TC2T class, while Franz Engstler spoiled his odds by spinning at Turn 6. All three LADA cars were eliminated after Q1: Rob Huff’s was placed in 13th position, while James Thompson’s and Mikhail Kozlovskiy’s were both stopped by suspension failures. The following drivers went through to Q2: Muller, Loeb, Valente, López, Chilton, Morbidelli, Michelisz, Tarquini, Münnich, Bennani, Borković, and Monteiro.
Qualifying 2 Citroën drivers pushed hard to raise the crossbar and broke the 1:30 barrier: Muller (1:29.566), Loeb (1:29.638) and López (1:29.655) were classified in the order on top of the time sheet.
Once again Valente emerged as the best of the rest in fourth position, while Tarquini won the last sport for Q3 ousting Michelisz with a last lap of 1:30.451 that was faster than the Hungarian’s by 0.010 seconds.
Tiago Monteiro qualified in tenth and won pole position on the reversed grid for Race 2; Mehdi Bennani will take the start alongside him on the front row.
Qualifying 3 Loeb won pole position with a perfect lap of 1:29.527 that helped him to beat López’s 1:29.619 and Muller’s 1:29.857. Tarquini was able to post the fastest laps of 1:30.808, though he remained 1.3 seconds off the pace, while Valente clocked a 1:31.139 that left him in fifth.