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.
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.
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