*Fifth top spot of 2015 for reigning world champion
*Citroën closes on Manufacturers’ title with front-row lockout
*Catsburg shines for LADA with third place
*Filippi scores maiden Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy pole
José María López will start on the DHL-presented pole position for the first ROSNEFT WTCC Race of China this afternoon following a stunning lap of the Shanghai International Circuit.
In a dramatic qualifying session, which had been put back to this morning to enable a damaged safety barrier and supporting posts to be fully repaired, Argentine López outpaced Citroën team-mate and home hero Ma Qing Hua in the top-five shootout for first place by 0.114s.
Dutchman Nicky Catsburg will start third for the Rosneft-backed LADA team following an impressive run with French Citroën Total pair Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller completing the top five in their Yokohama-shod C-Elysée WTCCs.
“Ma pushed hard in the Free Practice, I learn from him a bit and we helped each other to be quicker and to manage to put the Citroën C-Elysées on the first row,” said López. “That’s very important for the team and the main objective, which is the Manufacturers’ championship. And from my side I felt confident from the first lap in Q1. It’s maybe the first time in my two years in the WTCC that I haven’t really changed the set-up during qualifying and I felt confident.
Maybe the last lap was a little more difficult and maybe I didn’t do it as clean as it was in Q2 so I knew it was going to be tight and probably maybe the key point of the lap was the last two corner. It was tight, but enough and pole position is pole position. Even as I have said before that I have a good margin in the championship I have to try to do the best as I can. Still there is a long day to go, a different day. We try to get some rest, to prepare the car for the race and try again.”
LADA’s Rob Huff just failed to make the cut for Q3 along with John Filippi, who nevertheless ended up as the leading Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy contender for the first time in 2015 in his Chevrolet RML Cruze. Gabriele Tarquini was the top Honda driver in eighth place, one position behind Filippi.
Hugo Valente completed Qualifying Q2 in P10 and will start the reverse-grid second race from pole alongside Tom Coronel, who was ninth fastest in Q2 in his similar Chevrolet. Mehdi Bennani and Nicolas Lapierre were P11 and P12 respectively.
Honda drivers Norbert Michelisz and Tiago Monteiro were among a number of high-profile drivers to miss out on a Q2 slot with Tom Chilton, Stefano D’Aste, Grégoire Demoustier also failing to progress beyond Q1.
Qualifying points: López (5pts); Ma (4); Catsburg (3); Loeb (2); Muller (1)