Thailand WTCC: Lopez clinches race one pole
Jose Maria Lopez will start from pole position in the first race at Thailand, having become the only driver to break the 1m38s barrier in qualifying.
The Argentinian led a Citroen 1-2-3-4-5, with Sebastien Loeb finishing ahead of Yvan Muller, Yokohama Trophy polesitter Mehdi Bennani and Ma Qing Hua.
Bennani, however, lost his fastest lap due to track limits, promoting Ma to fourth and himself lining up fifth.
Lopez led a thrilling Q1 session, which saw the Argentinian claim the fastest time for Citroen. Castrol Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini failed to make it to Q2 by only finishing 13th, which means he will start from the back of the grid in the first race due to his five-place penalty from Shanghai.
Lada’s Nicolas Lapierre also finished outside the top-12, the Frenchman qualifying 14th.
While ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel and Munnich Motorsport’s Stefano D’Aste both had issues which left them at the back of the order in qualifying, several Chevrolet drivers made it to the top 12, with John Filippi third in his Campos Chevrolet and both Tom Chilton and Hugo Valente also qualifying for the second segment of the session.
In Q2, Bennani was fastest of all, with Muller electing to only do one timed lap and still finishing second ahead of Citroen teammates Lopez, Loeb and Hua. Valente scored a remarkable sixth, with Nicky Catsburg the fastest Lada driver in seventh ahead of Chilton.
Two Hondas completed the top ten to take the provisional Race 2 front row, with Castrol Honda’s Tiago Monteiro ninth ahead of Race 2 polesitter Norbert Michelisz.
Rob Huff was knocked out of the top ten at the last minute by Monteiro’s improvement while Filippi had traffic issues on his fast lap.
Q3 saw Lopez take the lead from teammate Loeb by breaking the 1m38s barrier, with the rally legend taking second and Muller in third after a slow second sector. Muller will start alongside Hua, with Bennani completing the top five.
Lopez’s pole position means his advantage from title rival Muller increases to 77 points, and victory in race one will be enough to secure him the title.
|1||Jose Maria Lopez||Citroen||1'37.916|
|4||Ma Qing Hua||Citroen||1'38.333||0.417|
Lada hoping to run unchanged line-up in 2016
Huff excluded from Thailand qualifying