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Paul Ricard WTCC: Sebastien Loeb scores maiden pole position


Sebastien Loeb delighted the home crowd at Paul Ricard by opening his World Touring Car Championship pole position account.

As expected the Citroen drivers occupied the top three positions in the decisive Q3 segment of qualifying.

The nine-time World Rally champion's single-lap Q3 run produced a lap of 1m29.527s, edging out Marrakech race one winner Jose Maria Lopez by 0.092 seconds.

Reigning WTCC champion Yvan Muller was 0.011s up on Loeb after the opening sector of his super-pole run, but he dropped off over the remainder of his lap to end the afternoon third.

NEWS UPDATE: Loeb and Lopez put to back of grid

Loeb improved throughout the three-part qualifying session. After finishing 0.1s behind Muller in Q1, Loeb closed the deficit to 0.07s in Q2 before finally taking pole.

Lopez complained of losing confidence with his C-Elysee in braking zones in free practice, and had not recovered the feeling in qualifying.

For the first time this season, a Honda driver managed to progress into the exclusive Q3 session, reserved for the top five fastest drivers from Q2.

Visit AUTOSPORT'S WTCC page for video highlights of qualifying

As the fifth fastest driver in Q2, Tarquini was first Q3 runner. The Italian's time of 1m30.808s was sufficient to stave off the attack of Hugo Valente.

Tarquini's team-mate Tiago Monteiro took a tactically advantageous 10th in Q2, which guarantees the former grand prix driver pole position for Sunday's second race.

Zengo Motorsport's Norbert Michelisz had appeared to have booked himself a place in Q3, but the Hungarian will start race one from sixth after being bumped back by Tarquini on the final lap of Q2.

Tom Chilton qualified seventh in the lone ROAL Motorsport entry.

The Briton's team-mate Tom Coronel is suffering an enforced absence after his Chevrolet Cruze was severely damaged in a start line accident in Marrakech,

Lada was hit by troubles in Q1. Russian driver Mikhail Kozlovskiy suffered a deranged left front wheel caused by a steering arm issue while team-mate James Thompson stopped on track.

NEWS UPDATE: Loeb and Lopez put to back of grid

Follow the WTCC and BTCC races, Auto GP race two and the WEC season opener as they happen on Race Centre Live from 11:30am UK time on Sunday April 20

Pos  Driver                Team/Car           Time       Gap    
 1.  Sebastien Loeb        Citroen            1m29.527s         
 2.  Jose Maria Lopez      Citroen            1m29.619s  +0.092s
 3.  Yvan Muller           Citroen            1m29.857s  +0.330s
 4.  Gabriele Tarquini     Honda              1m30.808s  +1.281s
 5.  Hugo Valente          Campos Chevrolet   1m31.139	 +1.612s
 6.  N.Michelisz           Zengo Honda        1m30.751s  Q2     
 7.  Tom Chilton           ROAL Chevrolet     1m30.897s  Q2     
 8.  Dusan Borkovic        Campos Chevrolet   1m31.099s  Q2     
 9.  Gianni Morbidelli	   Munnich Chevrolet  1m31.207s  Q2     
10.  Tiago Monteiro        Honda              1m31.224s  Q2     
11.  Rene Munnich          Munnich Chevrolet  1m31.345s  Q2     
12.  Mehdi Bennani         Proteam Honda      1m32.458s  Q2     
13.  Robert Huff           Lada               1m32.142s  Q1     
14.  James Thompson        Lada               1m33.162s  Q1     
15.  Mikhail Kozlovskiy    Lada               1m34.210s  Q1     
16.  John Filippi          Campos SEAT        1m35.972s  Q1     
17.  Franz Engstler        Engstler BMW       1m36.022s  Q1     
18.  Pasquale di Sabatino  Engstler BMW       1m36.083s  Q1     
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Lopez flies from last to take win
Muller wins as Loeb charges to second