Lopez tops Ricard WTCC qualifying, Huff on reverse-grid pole

Double World Touring Car champion Jose Maria Lopez secured pole for Sunday's main race at Paul Ricard with a scintillating lap of the Le Castellet circuit

Lopez tops Ricard WTCC qualifying, Huff on reverse-grid pole

Lopez set a best time of 1m28.950s - the fastest lap of the weekend - in the final shootout session to secure pole in his Citroen C-Elysee, despite dropping time in the first sector of his lap.

In securing the five points for pole, the Argentinian also maintains his record of never being headed in the world championship since he joined Citroen in 2014.

Honda's Tiago Monteiro impressed to split Lopez and the second Citroen C-Elysee of Yvan Muller with a fine performance throughout the hour.

Monteiro squeezed into the third part of qualifying with an improvement on the final lap of Q2, and made the most of that opportunity to secure a spot on the front row of the main race grid - his time eventually 0.263s off Lopez.

Muller had been faster than team-mate Lopez in the second part of qualifying and set the fastest first sector of all on his shootout lap, but lost time in sectors two and three and was forced to settle for third.

Tom Coronel was another standout performer in his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet Cruze, securing fourth after making it through to Q3.

The Dutchman's brake pedal stuck on his flying lap but he was able to trigger the timing beam on his return to the pitlane, and will start ahead of Lada's Nicky Catsburg who did not leave the pits.

Thed Bjork was close to achieving a place in the top five shootout on Polestar and Volvo's return to the WTCC, but was ultimately forced to settle for sixth on the grid for Sunday's main race.

NEWS UPDATE: Bjork excluded from qualifying

Bjork's final lap in Q2 had nudged him back into the top five, having initially been displaced by Catsburg, but an improvement from Monteiro denied the Swede.

He will instead occupy places on the third row of both of Sunday's grids, starting the main race ahead of Norbert Michelisz and Mehdi Bennani.

Rob Huff will start Sunday's opening race of the season from pole, after finishing 10th in the second segment of qualifying.

The Briton complained that his Honda Civic was loose at the rear but, after challenges from the Lada duo of Hugo Valente and Gabriele Tarquini faded, Huff was able to hang on to 10th which, under new rules for 2016, hands him first on the grid for Sunday's opening round of the season.

NEWS UPDATE: Bjork exclusion changes race one pole

Tom Chilton was the biggest casualty in Q1, falling short in a three-way battle between himself, Valente and Michelisz.

Valente had started the final set of laps outside of the top 12, but dragged his Lada Vesta ahead of Chilton.

The Briton was able to improve his time but not his position on his run, which allowed Michelisz to sneak between the pair into the final Q2 slot.

Chilton's SLR team-mate Gregoire Demoustier was also eliminated, as were Campos Racing's John Filippi, Rene Munnich and Zengo's Ferenc Ficza - the Zengo Motorsport driver continuing to rack up mileage.

RACE ONE GRID

Pos Driver Team Car
1 Hugo Valente LADA Sport Lada
2 Rob Huff Honda Racing Team JAS Honda
3 Fredrik Ekblom Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo
4 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen
5 Norbert Michelisz Honda Racing Team JAS Honda
6 Nicky Catsburg LADA Sport Lada
7 Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet
8 Yvan Muller Citroen Racing Citroen
9 Tiago Monteiro Honda Racing Team JAS Honda
10 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen Racing Citroen
11 Gabriele Tarquini LADA Sport Lada
12 Tom Chilton Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen
13 Gregoire Demoustier Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen
14 John Filippi Campos Racing Chevrolet
15 Rene Munnich Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet
16 Thed Bjork Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo

RACE TWO GRID

Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap
1 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen Racing Citroen 1m28.950s -
2 Tiago Monteiro Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 1m29.213s 0.263s
3 Yvan Muller Citroen Racing Citroen 1m29.262s 0.312s
4 Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet - -
5 Nicky Catsburg LADA Sport Lada - -
6 Norbert Michelisz Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 1m29.958s -
7 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 1m30.021s -
8 Fredrik Ekblom Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo 1m30.221s -
9 Rob Huff Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 1m30.576s -
10 Hugo Valente LADA Sport Lada 1m30.612s -
11 Gabriele Tarquini LADA Sport Lada 1m30.875s -
12 Tom Chilton Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 1m30.315s -
13 Gregoire Demoustier Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 1m30.620s -
14 John Filippi Campos Racing Chevrolet 1m30.985s -
15 Thed Bjork Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo 1m29.733s -
16 Rene Munnich Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet 1m31.749s -


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Bjork puts Volvo Polestar on top in Paul Ricard WTCC practice
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