Spa WTCC: Yvan Muller on top in Citroen pole battle
|By Peter Mills||Saturday, June 21st 2014, 14:44 GMT|
Yvan Muller wrestled his factory Citroen C-Elysee to a third World Touring Car Championship pole of the season in a closely contested qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps.
The result gives Muller five important points towards his pursuit of championship-leading team-mate Jose Maria Lopez.
Citroen's three regular drivers were separated by just 0.191 seconds in the Q3 showdown.
Reigning champion Muller was the penultimate runner in the single-lap session, and spectacularly kicked up dust at the Pif-Paf en route to what would prove to be the pole time of 2m23.497s.
Q2 pacesetter Lopez was the final competitor left to offer a response, but the triple TC2000 champion lost half a second immediately during a moment at Eau Rouge.
The remainder of the Argentinean's lap was clean, but Lopez was unable to claw back sufficient time to deny World Rally Championship legend Sebastien Loeb a place on the front row.
"I think the second sector in Q3 was my fastest of the weekend," said Muller, explaining where he found an edge over his Citroen team-mates.
"Also, I understand all three of us made mistakes at Radillon, we had a small steering issue in the compression, and I suppose my mistake was smaller than the others."
Hugo Valente produced a typically committed lap in his Campos Chevrolet, including running with all four wheels off the road on the exit of Stavelot, to qualify fourth.
The Frenchman has been consistently the closest challenger to the three full-time Citroen drivers at Spa.
In only his second appearance of the season, Moscow race winner Ma Qing Hua in the fourth C-Elysee made a shock exit from qualifying in Q1.
Former champion Gabriele Tarquini was the only Honda driver to progress into Q3, having edged out factory JAS team-mate Tiago Monteiro in Q2 by 0.018s.
Gianni Morbidelli earned the reverse-grid pole position for Munnich Motorsport after achieving the 10th fastest time in the second segment of qualifying.
The former Formula 1 driver is also sharing a Mercedes SLS with team boss Rene Munnich in the French GT support race at Spa.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Yvan Muller Citroen 2m23.497s 2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 2m23.643s +0.146s 3. Jose Maria Lopez Citroen 2m23.688s +0.191s 4. Hugo Valente Campos Chevrolet 2m24.646s +1.149s 5. Gabriele Tarquini Honda 2m25.035s +1.538s 6. Norbert Michelisz Zengo Honda 2m25.333s Q2 7. Tom Coronel ROAL Chevrolet 2m25.351s Q2 8. Mehdi Bennani Proteam Honda 2m25.549s Q2 9. Gianni Morbidelli Munnich Chevrolet 2m25.767s Q2 10. Dusan Borkovic Campos Chevrolet 2m26.593s Q2 11. Tiago Monteiro Honda 2m25.165s Q2* 12. Tom Chilton ROAL Chevrolet 2m26.918s Q2 13. Rob Huff Lada 2m27.042s Q1 14. Ma Qing Hua Citroen 2m27.044s Q1 15. Mikhail Kozlovskiy Lada 2m27.923s Q1 16. James Thompson Lada 2m28.262s Q1 17. Rene Munnich Munnich Chevrolet 2m28.337s Q1 18. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 2m32.786s Q1** 19. Pasquale Di Sabatino Engstler BMW 2m34.031s Q1** 20. John Filippi Campos SEAT 2m34.963s Q1** 21. Norbert Nagy Campos SEAT 2m35.013s Q1** * Five-place penalty for Moscow incident ** TC2