Suzuka WTCC: Alain Menu claims pole as Chevrolet seals title

Alain Menu helped Chevrolet seal the 2012 World Touring Car Championship constructors' title by taking pole position at Suzuka

The Swiss racer was fastest in both practice sessions and repeated his 2011 pole around the short East layout.

Chevrolets will occupy the first two rows for Sunday's opening race. After heading Q1, Yvan Muller was 0.065 seconds slower than Menu's 52.885s pole time in Q2 to take second.

The qualifying points move reigning WTCC champion Muller one point clear of title rival Rob Huff at the head of the drivers' standings.

Briton Huff made it three RML-run Chevrolet Cruzes in the top three, ahead of a strong effort from circuit debutant Alex MacDowall in Bamboo Engineering's Independent entry.

Mehdi Bennani was delighted to produce one of the best qualifying performances of his WTCC career in fifth, and shaded Slovakia-Ring winner Gabriele Tarquini.

In addition to the factory Chevrolet drivers' championship battle, much intrigue this weekend surrounds the debut of the JAS Sport-developed works Honda Civic.

In a promising maiden outing, former grand prix driver Tiago Monteiro just missed out on the reversed-grid pole in 11th.

Monteiro's late Q1 effort, to end the session in seventh, prompted a round of applause in the Honda garage. It had appeared possible for much of Q1 that Monteiro could miss the Q2 cut.

In the Independents' Trophy battle, points leader Norbert Michelisz endured a tough afternoon. The Hungarian found the gravel trap at the final corner, and later speculated that he had damaged the right-rear of his Zengo BMW.

Michelisz's misfortune provides an opportunity for rival Pepe Oriola. The Spaniard trails Michelisz by 25 points in the Yokohama Drivers' Trophy, but will start five places up the road in ninth.

Wiechers-Sport's Stefano D'Aste earned his third reversed-grid pole position of the season courtesy of 10th position in Q2.

Darryl O'Young had a mixed afternoon on his return to Bamboo Engineering. The Hong Kong racer had quick spin at Turn 8 that compromised his Q2 efforts.

Hiroki Yoshimoto claimed 17th on his maiden WTCC outing of 2012, while fellow newcomers Rene Munnich and Masaki Kano will share the final row.

Pos  Driver             Team/Car             Time     Gap
 1.  Alain Menu         Chevrolet            52.885s
 2.  Yvan Muller        Chevrolet            52.950s  + 0.065s
 3.  Rob Huff           Chevrolet            53.054s  + 0.169s
 4.  Alex MacDowall     Bamboo Chevrolet     53.206s  + 0.321s
 5.  Mehdi Bennani      Proteam BMW          53.224s  + 0.339s
 6.  Gabriele Tarquini  Lukoil SEAT          53.259s  + 0.374s
 7.  Tom Coronel        ROAL BMW             53.400s  + 0.515s
 8.  Aleksei Dudukalo   Lukoil SEAT          53.513s  + 0.628s
 9.  Pepe Oriola        Tuenti SEAT          53.516s  + 0.631s
10.  Stefano D'Aste     Wiechers BMW         53.729s  + 0.844s
11.  Tiago Monteiro     Honda                53.886s  + 1.001s
12.  Darryl O'Young     Bamboo Chevrolet     54.491s  + 1.606s
13.  Franz Engstler     Engstler BMW         53.742s  Q1
14.  Norbert Michelisz  Zengo BMW            53.746s  Q1
15.  Tom Boardman       Special Tuning SEAT  53.847s  Q1
16.  Fernando Monje     Tuenti SEAT          53.978s  Q1
17.  Hiroki Yoshimoto   Tuenti SEAT          54.002s  Q1
18.  Charles Ng         Engstler BMW         54.030s  Q1
19.  James Nash         Arena Ford           54.082s  Q1
20.  Alberto Cerqui     ROAL BMW             54.100s  Q1
21.  Tom Chilton        Arena Ford           54.330s  Q1
22.  Rene Munnich       Special Tuning SEAT  54.690s  Q1
23.  Masaki Kano        Engstler BMW         55.013s  Q1

Suzuka WTCC: Alain Menu quickest in final practice

Suzuka WTCC: Alain Menu leads a routine Chevrolet sweep