Jos-Mara Lpez takes WTCC pole for Race 1

After finishing as the fastest driver in all three free practice sessions, José-María López wasn’t about to let anyone beat him to pole position at today’s FIA WTCC meeting at the Slovakia Ring.

- The Citroen Total team once again claimed the top three spots in qualifying, with Sébastien Loeb picking up second place and Yvan Muller third.

For the first time this season, the same driver came out on top in all three free practice sessions. Despite never having raced at the Slovakia Ring before, José-María López stood out as the man to beat from the very start of the meeting.

On Saturday afternoon, the sun was shining brightly when the competitors took to the track for qualifying. In the first session, Yvan Muller and José-María López only needed one lap each to position themselves in the top twelve. The going was tougher for Sébastien Loeb: he had to have a tie-rod replaced in his rear suspension before getting back out on the track in the last few minutes of the session to secure his place in Q2. After grabbing sixth place despite a problem with his fuel pump, Seb was still in the pitlane at the start of Q2 as his team repaired the fault.

Thanks to the work put in by his mechanics, Seb was able to book a spot in Q3, alongside his teammates José-María López – who clocked the best time of the session – and Yvan Muller.

The latter was the first Citroën driver to take to the track for Q3, but from the moment he came out of the first bend a little too wide, he knew he was out of the running. Sébastien Loeb, in contrast, produced a perfect lap, making considerable progress on the fast bends in the first sector. But he was ultimately to be outdone by José-María López, who continued his good form by becoming the first driver to dip under the 2’04’’ mark. With a time over three tenths of a second quicker than Sébastien Loeb, the Argentine picked up his second pole position of the season, after Marrakech.

WHAT THEY HAD TO SAYYves Matton, Team Principal, Citroen Racing: “All season, our drivers have shown that they are all at the same level, and that has pulled up the performance levels of the team as a whole. Race after race, it has been the driver who has managed to produce a perfect lap that has claimed pole position. This weekend, Pechito has been impressive, but Seb has kept on improving and won himself a place on the front row. This time, Yvan was the least successful, but we still took the top three places!”

José-María López: “I hadn’t driven at this circuit before, but it suits my style of driving. I felt good from the first few laps and I put in some good work with the team to improve the setup of my Citroën C-Elysée WTCC. Even though I’d clocked the fastest times in the first three sessions, I couldn’t afford to relax, as I knew that Seb and Yvan were improving too. My thanks go to the whole team. It’s always easier when you’ve had a great car prepared for you.”

Sébastien Loeb: “I’m really happy with this position. I didn’t think I could keep pace with José. Qualifying was difficult today. In Q1, we noticed a little problem with the suspension and the mechanics repaired it just in time for me to go out and clock a good time. But a few hundred metres from the finish line, I lost power due to a problem with my fuel pump. I managed to pull back into the pits and we gained a few minutes when the red flag was brought out during Q2. Even after I had won my place in Q3, the team had more work to do, to change the tie-rod that had broken during Q1. At the end of the day, I can count myself lucky to be in this position!”

Yvan Muller: “My chances of winning pole position went up in smoke at the first corner. I came out too wide and I knew it was over for me. I drove as best I could after that, and clocked pretty good times for the second and third sectors. Tomorrow, the start of race 1 will be crucial: if my teammates don’t make any mistakes, it will almost impossible for me to get past them.”

QUALIFYING RESULTS1. José-María López (Citroen C-Elysée WTCC) 2’03’’9122. Sébastien Loeb (Citroen C-Elysée WTCC) 2’04’’2843. Yvan Muller (Citroen C-Elysée WTCC) 2’04’’5414. Nobert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC) 2’04’’9035. Gianni Morbidelli (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1) 2’04’’931