– Chilton had looked set to steal pole with fastest first & second sector times
– Blocked on the final run means Muller qualifies 3rd, Chilton 5th as Tarquini takes pole position
– A silver lining as RML designed and built Cruzes qualify in positions 2 through to 7
MARRAKECH (Morocco) – Saturday 6th April: Yvan Muller and Tom Chilton have qualified 3rd and 5th for the first of tomorrow’s two races but both drivers were left frustrated for what might have been following late interruption on track by Fernando Monje’s slower SEAT as the Independent competitor cruised round with a wounded car in his quest to secure pole for the reverse grid in race two.
It was a bitter blow for RML, who, from topping the timesheets across the practice sessions earlier in the morning, continued their perfectly executed towing teamwork and came within reach of what could have been Chilton’s first pole position.
Gabriele Tarquini had initially set a pace that would ultimately be good enough for pole, ironically gained as a result of a multiple tow created by the fleet of Cruzes ahead of him. Despite this his reign at the top had seemed vulnerable as current title front-runners Muller and Chilton set out in tandem for their second qualifying run, seeking to maximise on strategy over the ensuing laps.
It had been unfolding as planned – on the last flying lap Chilton responded to Tarquini, taking half a second out of the Italian’s time, banking the fastest overall times in both sectors 1 and 2, only to lose all advantage in the final sector, to finish 5th overall. Team mate and current Championship leader, Muller, who was leading Tom around on this second run, was also hampered and failed to improve on his 3rd position from his first set of tyres.
Tarquini will thus start from pole position, with Bamboo Engineering’s James Nash heading up the Chevrolet Cruze tailback with Muller, Michel Nykjaer, Chilton and Alex MacDowall rounding out the top six.
Yvan Muller: “Third is ok. It’s not what we’d expected having worked so well in the morning’s practice sessions but unfortunately we were caught out in those final minutes by a slower car, making it impossible to improve. Both Tom and myself were held up considerably so it was game over. But third isn’t a disaster and I am sure we can turn it around in the race tomorrow.”
Tom Chilton: “It’s frustrating to have been so close to getting a pole time, but then losing it in the final sector. But from 5th I can I still change my fortunes and again, those few extra miles under my belt in the Cruze on this track will help so as always, I’ll be giving it my all as soon as the lights go out.”
Ron Hartvelt, WTCC Project Supervisor: “That’s a really disappointing end to the session for us – Yvan and Tom had been working so well together; our strategy was really playing out well and the pace was certainly there for Tom to grab pole, as shown in his first and second sector times. Unfortunately we were held up in the final stages by the SEAT, which was running on a completely separate target to us, so it is frustrating that we miss out as a result.
“However, Yvan is starting from 3rd and Tom 5th and we’re surrounded by Cruzes, all of which we know pretty well, so I am sure with a good start tomorrow we can take advantage. This isn’t a great track for overtaking but it is possible and I have every confidence in both of our guys. They’ll be completely fired up for the first race, especially with Tarquini on pole – now we’ll see how we stand against the Honda.”
1. Yvan Muller RML Chevrolet 1m56.486s
2. Tom Chilton RML Chevrolet 1m57.345s + 0.859s
3. Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet 1m57.685s + 1.199s
4. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT 1m57.833s + 1.347s
5. Gabriele Tarquini Honda 1m57.946s + 1.460s
6. James Nash Bamboo Chevrolet 1m58.005s + 1.519s
7. Michel Nykjaer NIKA Chevrolet 1m58.172s + 1.686s
8. Marc Basseng Munnich SEAT 1m58.518s + 2.032s
9. James Thompson Lada 1m58.669s + 2.183s
10. Darryl O’Young ROAL BMW 1m58.781s + 2.295s