Rickard Rydell claimed pole position in his SEAT Leon Tdi during a highly competitive qualifying session at Imola - helping SEAT to a lock-out of the front row for the latest rounds of the World Touring Car Championship.

He emerged ahead of team-mate Yvan Muller in the final minutes, beating five other drivers who provisionally held pole during the session. Rydell's time of 1min 54.761secs was two tenths faster than Gabriele Tarquini's time from the morning's final practice session.

Chevrolet were also strong, taking third position with Alain Menu, and fourth with Robert Huff. They had been improving all weekend following a slow start and both drivers headed the standings at times during the session.

James Thompson's N-technology Honda took fifth position, following an extremely promising morning during practice. Halfway through the session the Briton clocked a lap of 1min 54.954secs to claim a provisional pole position that stood until the final moments.

Tarquini made up the rest of the third row alongside Thompson as he struggled to find the pace he had in test and practice. The Italian began the qualifying session going wide at Villeneuve, but was later able to recover an important sixth spot on the grid. The final Chevrolet of Nicola Larini took seventh position, with the first BMW driver, J?rg M?ller, in eighth. The BMW cars have struggled for pace on this circuit as Augusto Farfus and Andy Priaulx made up the top ten positions behind M?ller.

Sergio Hern?ndez took pole position for the Independents' class, with the fourteenth fastest lap overall. Pierre-Yves Corthals, who briefly led the category in the early stages, qualified second, with Stefano D'Aste in third and seventeenth overall, with a gap of only one second from the poleman,


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