Yvan Muller led a SEAT one-two in qualifying for the opening round of the World Touring Car Championship at Curitiba
The Frenchman set his fastest time, a lap of 1:24.295, shortly before the session was red-flagged when Alain Menu crashed his Chevrolet Lacetti heavily at the final corner. Despite substantial damage to the driver's side of his car, the Swiss escaped without injury.
Muller, who missed out on the title at the final round last season, was taking nothing for granted despite claiming pole.
"It's a good start to the season," said Muller. "But qualifying is one thing, the race is another. We can do a good lap in qualifying, but it will be different over 10 laps in a race with the weight we are carrying."
Rickard Rydell, returning full-time to the WTCC after a year spent largely on the sidelines, qualified second, with BMW's Augusto Farfus the best non-SEAT in third for Schnitzer Motorsport.
"Qualifying was a bit strange," said Farfus. "I got a red flag when I was on a fast lap and on my third run [teammate] Jorg Muller spun in front of me so it was not perfect. But we expected to have SEAT on top in qualifying."
Gabriele Tarquini made it three SEAT Leon TDIs in the top four after a pre-qualifying engine change, with Nicola Larini disappointed to be only fifth for Chevrolet.
"The session did not go well, and it did not go badly," said Larini. "There was a problem with traffic on my final run when I was up and we could have set a faster lap."
Jorg Muller will start sixth despite that late spin, which saw him almost collected by teammate Farfus, with Tiago Monteiro qualifying seventh for SEAT.
Rob Huff, in the second Chevy, took eighth, but it could have been better after his best lap was interrupted by the red flag.
"We were flying and could potentially have been right up there," he said. "But unfortunately we had to abort."
SEAT's Jordi Gene, who suffered with braking problems, will start ninth ahead of the best petrol-powered Leon of Tom Coronel.
Menu qualified 11th despite missing almost half of the session. He will start ahead of BMW trio Andy Priaulx, Felix Porteiro and Alex Zanardi, with all three drivers struggling for grip.
Belgian Pierre-Yves Corthals was best of the Independents' Trophy runners in 15th for Exagon Engineering, one place ahead of Proteam Motorsport's Sergio Hernandez.
Pos Driver Car Time 1. Yvan Muller SEAT Leon TDI 1:24.295 2. Rickard Rydell SEAT Leon TDI 1:24.404 + 0.109 3. Augusto Farfus BMW 320si 1:24.482 + 0.187 4. Gabriele Tarquini SEAT Leon TDI 1:24.527 + 0.232 5. Nicola Larini Chevrolet Lacetti 1:24.579 + 0.284 6. Jorg Muller BMW 320si 1:24.659 + 0.364 7. Tiago Monteiro SEAT Leon TDI 1:24.730 + 0.435 8. Robert Huff Chevrolet Lacetti 1:24.738 + 0.443 9. Jordi Gene SEAT Leon TDI 1:24.785 + 0.490 10. Tom Coronel SEAT Leon 1:24.987 + 0.692 11. Alain Menu Chevrolet Lacetti 1:24.993 + 0.698 12. Andy Priaulx BMW 320si 1:25.046 + 0.751 13. Felix Porteiro BMW 320si 1:25.166 + 0.871 14. Alessandro Zanardi BMW 320si 1:25.175 + 0.880 15. Pierre-Yves Corthals SEAT Leon 1:25.363 + 1.068 16. Sergio Hernandez BMW 320si 1:25.721 + 1.426 17. Stefano D'Aste BMW 320si 1:25.806 + 1.511 18. Olivier Tielemans BMW 320si 1:26.003 + 1.708 19. Franz Engstler BMW 320si 1:26.437 + 2.142 20. Andrey Romanov BMW 320si 1:27.813 + 3.518 21. Ibrahim Okyay BMW 320si 1:28.412 + 4.117
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