Citroën C-Elysée driver López was quickest in all three sectors on his flying lap in the Q3 shootout for top spot to set a time of 1m46.109s, beating Coronel’s benchmark effort by 0.609 seconds. In the process, the Argentine smashed Yvan Muller’s lap record of 1m50.119s on the resurfaced 4.381-kilometre Budapest track and retakes the championship lead by two points over Tiago Monteiro, who was fourth quickest behind Honda team-mate Rob Huff.
López moves into third place in the all-time list of WTCC pole-sitters with his 16th best qualifying lap for Citroën’s third-straight pole of 2016. Meanwhile, Thed Björk became the first Polestar Cyan Racing driver to make it through to Qualifying Q3 in his Volvo S60 Polestar TC1.
“This pole position is because I have the best car on the grid and the team have done a fantastic job,” said López. “We never know how Q3 will be as a driver and the track conditions were much more difficult than last year so it was difficult to understand the car and the set-up. But qualifying is always about confidence and when I put on the new set of tyres I was really comfortable in the car so I was trying not to do any mistake. I managed to do a good lap and thanks to everyone for their work. There’s still a long way to go but it’s always good to be on pole position in Hungary.”
WTCC Trophy contender Coronel equalled his career-best qualifying result in his privateer Chevrolet, but there was frustration for Hungarian hero Norbert Michelisz, who just missed out on a place in Q3 and will start the Main Race from sixth. Nicky Catsburg was seventh quickest for LADA with Yvan Muller, Fredrik Ekblom and Mehdi Bennani completing the top 10. Bennani’s effort puts him on pole position for the reverse-grid Opening Race, while Tom Chilton will start WTCC race number 100 in P11, one place ahead of Gabriele Tarquini.
In Q1, Muller only just avoided being eliminated, with Hugo Valente instead failing to make the top 12, together with John Filippi, Grégoire Demoustier, René Münnich and Ferenc Ficza.