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Spa WTCC: Yvan Muller on top in Citroen pole battle

Yvan Muller, Citroen, Spa WTCC 2014

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.

NEWS UPDATE: Borkovic and Monteiro take grid drops

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
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