Lukoil Racing SEAT's Gabriele Tarquini claimed his second World Touring Car Championship pole position of the season at Algarve
The Italian had earlier dominated free practice one, but feared a factory Chevrolet resurgence in qualifying. The expected threat failed to materialise however, with the 2009 WTCC champion emerging fastest in both Q1 and Q2 and edging out Chevrolet's championship leader Yvan Muller by 0.266 seconds in the decisive second qualifying session.
"This car dates from 2005, but it is still capable of surprising me," said Tarquini. "After the tyre issue at Salzburgring we made a long run of about eight laps in practice, as the last corner here is also very long and fast.
"We want to be safe this weekend, and perhaps some changes we'll make for the race will cost us some small performance in the first laps. Of course it depends how much you want to risk, but as I am not going for the championship maybe I can be less conservative than Yvan."
Muller's Q2 was compromised slightly by running wide at Turn 6 when overtaking Tarquini, but the Frenchman felt the incident did not cost him pole.
"Gabriele was off to one side, clear of the racing line, and I just braked a bit too late. He had a three tenth advantage today, so I don't think I could have taken pole. Also, when I went off it was on my second lap and that is usually not as fast."
Hungaroring reversed-grid winner Norbert Michelisz took third and the Independents' Trophy pole. The Hungarian recovered from engine problems in free practice to consistently run among the top six in Q1 and Q2. The Zengo Motorsport driver was forced to defend his track position from Mehdi Bennani (Proteam BMW) at the start of his fastest lap.
"Bennani was very close and wanted to attack me into Turn 1," said Michelisz. "I had to cover the inside, which cost me two tenths, but I don't regret it as I don't think it cost me a position. Yvan and Gabriele appear to be very quick so I am not sure if we have the pace to win, but if they struggle for grip in the second half of the first race then perhaps that will help me."
Muller's title challenger, and RML team-mate, Rob Huff and Tuenti Racing's Pepe Oriola left it late to record a competitive time in Q2. When the chequered flag was produced the pair were at the bottom of the Q2 timing screens, but Huff salvaged fourth place and Oriola claimed the race two reversed-grid pole courtesy of finishing 10th.
ROAL Motorsport BMW team-mates Tom Coronel and Alberto Cerqui were separated by just 0.054s at the finish to complete the top six.
The opening qualifying session was red-flagged when Arena's Tom Chilton suffered front left suspension problems on his Ford Focus at Turn 5. The British Touring Car graduate will start last.
Local hero Tiago Monteiro (Tuenti Racing) was outside the all-important fastest 12 drivers at the time of the stoppage, but earned a place in Q2 on the restart by improving to ninth.
Lada Sport's James Thompson was 12th when the red flags were displayed, but the Englishman was unable to improve on restart and slipped to 17th.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT 1m53.966s 2. Yvan Muller Chevrolet 1m54.232s + 0.266s 3. Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 1m54.598s + 0.632s 4. Rob Huff Chevrolet 1m54.932s + 0.966s 5. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 1m54.982s + 1.016s 6. Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW 1m55.036s + 1.070s 7. Gabor Weber Zengo BMW 1m55.087s + 1.121s 8. Tiago Monteiro Tuenti SEAT 1m55.088s + 1.122s 9. Alain Menu Chevrolet 1m55.114s + 1.148s 10. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT 1m55.323s + 1.357s 11. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 1m55.488s + 1.522s 12. Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT 1m55.618s + 1.652s 13. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 1m55.811s Q1 14. Darryl O'Young Special Tuning SEAT 1m55.842s Q1 15. Alex MacDowall bamboo Chevrolet 1m55.891s Q1 16. Stefano D'Aste Wiechers BMW 1m55.892s Q1 17. James Thompson TMS Lada 1m55.926s Q1 18. Charles Ng Engstler BMW 1m56.080s Q1 19. Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT 1m56.260s Q1 20. Pasquale di Sabatino bamboo Chevrolet 1m56.499s Q1 21. James Nash Arena Ford 1m56.554s Q1 22. Tom Chilton Arena Ford 1m57.117s Q1
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