WTCC Nordschleife: Jose Maria Lopez dominates qualifying

Citroen's Jose Maria Lopez stormed to a dominant pole position for Saturday's main World Touring Car Championship race at the Nurburgring after smashing the Nordschleife WTCC lap record

WTCC Nordschleife: Jose Maria Lopez dominates qualifying

In unexpectedly dry conditions, Lopez was fastest on his first run and, after a red-flag period to clear a stricken European Touring Car Cup car, bettered that effort by five seconds on his second run as he recorded a time of 8m38.229s in his Citroen C-Elysee.

But the Argentinian went even quicker on his final run, smashing the previous lap record by 1.9 seconds with an effort of 8m35.541s.

"I found the confidence in the last few runs," said Lopez. "This is teamwork, not just me.

"I had the confidence because I was in P1 to try and push more. With low fuel in the end it was a fantastic."

Team-mate Yvan Muller wound up second quickest, but found himself 3.573s down on Lopez's time in his C-Elysee.

Tom Coronel was a fine third, a further second back from Muller, while Norbert Michelisz was fourth and fastest of the three factory Honda cars.

Tom Chilton's strong form translated into fifth on the grid for Sunday's main race, with Thed Bjork a surprise sixth - with both he and team-mate Fredrik Ekblom having opted to focus on race set-up over single lap pace for the majority of the weekend.

Rob Huff was seventh in the second Honda Civic - although he will take a penalty after a crash in first practice on Sunday evening wrecked his original engine.

Nicky Catsburg was seventh and the fastest of Lada's contingent, with Mehdi Bennani and Huff's team-mate Tiago Monteiro completing the top 10 - putting the Honda driver on race one pole with the reverse grid.

Aside from the mid-session stoppage, there was one incident of note as Lada's Hugo Valente crashed towards the end of his second lap of the 14-mile circuit.

In-car footage and audio suggested that Valente had a mechanical issue and lost control of his car through the fast Antoniusbuche curves at the end of the Dottinger Hohe straight, spinning through the Tiergarten curve and smacking the barrier before stoping at Hohenrain.

Valente walked away from his second crash of the weekend unharmed but will start 13th, alongside Sabine Schmitz.

His crash also ruled Lada out of the post-qualifying MAC3 time trial, with only two of the marque's cars available.

Valente's demise left Honda and Citroen to battle it out for MAC3 honours, with Honda taking a surprise victory.

Citroen opted once more to flank factory drivers Lopez and Muller with Sebastien Loeb Racing driver Bennani, and looked to have the upper hand through the opening sectors.

But Honda's train - led by Michelisz and tailed by Huff - stayed together well on the Dottinger Hohe straight and completed its run in a time of 8m47.920s.

That was to be the winning time as Citroen, which asked Lopez to save fuel over the radio on the back straight, completed its run 1.564s slower than the Honda trio.

RACE ONE GRID

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

RACE TWO GRID

Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap
1 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen Racing Citroen 8m35.541s -
2 Yvan Muller Citroen Racing Citroen 8m39.114s 3.573s
3 Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 8m40.067s 4.526s
4 Norbert Michelisz Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 8m40.578s 5.037s
5 Tom Chilton Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 8m41.163s 5.622s
6 Nicky Catsburg LADA Sport Lada 8m42.422s 6.881s
7 Thed Bjork Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo 8m42.482s 6.941s
8 Rob Huff Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 8m43.559s 8.018s
9 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 8m44.466s 8.925s
10 Tiago Monteiro Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 8m45.405s 9.864s
11 Fredrik Ekblom Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo 8m45.432s 9.891s
12 Gabriele Tarquini LADA Sport Lada 8m46.000s 10.459s
13 Hugo Valente LADA Sport Lada 8m47.147s 11.606s
14 Sabine Schmitz Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet 8m48.381s 12.840s
15 John Filippi Campos Racing Chevrolet 8m48.687s 13.146s
16 Gregoire Demoustier Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 8m51.426s 15.885s
17 Ferenc Ficza Zengo Motorsport Honda 8m56.037s 20.496s


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Series WTCC
Drivers Jose Maria Lopez
Author Jack Cozens
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