Having struggled on the streets of Pau last time, the SEAT diesels returned to form in Valencia to secure a lock-out of the front two rows for the second European event of the World Touring Car Championship season.
Gabriele Tarquini posted the quickest time during the second phase of qualifying with a lap of 1min 44.414secs, which saw the Italian outpace defending champion Yvan Muller by two-tenths of a second. It marked Tarquini's first pole position since Oschersleben 2007 and made light of pre-event suggestions that the diesels would again struggle for pace.
“The qualifying results came from a great team job so thanks to the engineers who prepared a great engine for this event,” Tarquini said. “All the team worked hard including the drivers out there because it was difficult to manage speed, tyres and timing. The track was slippery compared to previous seasons but I saved a good set of tyres for the last minutes.”
Jordi Gene – in his newly liveried Repsol-backed car – was third quickest ahead of free practice pace-setter Tiago Monteiro, while it was left to Augusto Farfus to lead the BMW challenge in fifth place. The Brazilian will be joined on the third row of the grid by the Chevrolet of Alain Menu.
“I am pretty happy with my result today, the car felt well and I had almost a completely clean lap in my fastest run, so I don't think we could have done any better today. Tomorrow, I expect two tough races, as we have some very fast cars behind us.”
Tom Coronel continued to be the leading Independent runner with a solid seventh place for the SUNRED team, while Rob Huff, Rickard Rydell and Nicola Larini rounded out the top ten.
Coronel's performance came despite a starter motor issue that had looked like sidelining him from the final part of qualifying.
“Qualifying was really good,” he said. “At the start my team was very stressed because I had starter motor problems. When I got out I saw the board with my splits and thought I was in for a good lap. In fact it was a fabulous lap and I couldn't have done better. It is great to qualify as the top privateer; I want to win the Independents' Trophy this year. ”
Jorg Muller was the leading driver not to make it through to Q2 as he secured eleventh on the grid, just ahead of Alex Zanardi who had been on the pace through both free practice sessions. Sergio Hernandez and Andy Priaulx followed close behind as four of the BMW works drivers failed to make it past the first segment of qualifying.