In one of the tightest qualifying sessions of the World Touring Car Championship season, Gabriele Tarquini secured pole for SEAT on the streets of Porto.
The Italian posted a time of 2min 09.308secs – the quickest of the weekend – early on in the second phase of qualifying to snare top spot by just 0.087secs from Chevrolet's Rob Huff, who had earlier paced the second free practice session.
“I am happy and disappointed at the same time,” Huff said. “The car is fantastic and the team has done a great job, the second-fastest time is an excellent result, but I still think I could have obtained the pole, if I hadn't been held up in traffic. But no recriminations, we will now focus on tomorrow's races, hoping to achieve something positive.”
Huff was followed on the time sheets by defending champion Yvan Muller in third, while Andy Priaulx was the quickest BMW driver in fourth place; the Guernseyman losing his chances of a better position when he lost the back end of the car at the chicane on his final flying lap.
“The saying goes: He who dares wins,” Priaulx said. “Today we dared, but didn't quite win.
“I pushed a bit too hard on my second run. Without a little off towards the end of the session, we could have qualified even further up on the grid. Nevertheless it's great to make it onto the second row considering where we came from after the test and the two practice sessions. My team did a fantastic job and the set-up was perfect.”
Alain Menu was fifth quickest in his Chevrolet Cruze ahead of home hero Tiago Monteiro, while Augusto Farfus, Nicola Larini, Rickard Rydell and Jordi Gene rounded out the top ten.
Amongst the big losers during the first part of the session and unable to make it through to Q2 were BMW pair Alex Zanardi and Jorg Muller who will line up eleventh and twelve on the grid. Fellow BMW driver Sergio Hernandez had to settle for 17th on the grid after clipping the wall.
Tom Coronel was the quickest of the Independent runners in 13th place ahead of Stefano D'Aste and current points leader Felix Porteiro, while Mehdi Bennani was fourth ahead of his return to the series in the Exagon Engineering SEAT Leon.
James Thompson qualified in 22nd place at the wheel of the new LADA Priora having posted his quickest time of the weekend with the new car.
While that put the Briton ahead of the older 110 model of Kirill Ladygin, Thompson was outpaced by Jaap van Lagen – who produced arguably the strongest qualifying disaply fo the season for the Russian team with the 18th quickest time with his 110.