Yvan Muller's 2013 FIA WTCC qualifying stranglehold has been broken and for the first time since the third round of the season at Slovakia he will line up for a race not on his seemingly predestined normal pole position.
That honour has been taken by his RML team mate Tom Chilton. Muller was looking set for his seventh pole of the season, but that was snatched by the former Arena Motorsport driver in the dying seconds of qualifying despite a spin during the session. This is Chilton's first pole in the series and the first for a Brit in the class since Rob Huff's effort in Macau at the end of last season.
Behind the Chevrolet Cruze front row was the Castrol JAS Honda of Tiago Monteiro. A welcome return to form for both Honda and for the Portuguese driver, it came despite hot conditions and dusty off-line surfaces that saw the Civic skate and twitch towards the front of the grid.
Pepe Oriola put the third RML-prepared car on the second row with P4 to continue his quick qualifying form, while fifth and sixth on the third row of the grid sees another all Chevrolet crusade, that of bamboo engineering team mates Alex MacDowall and James Nash, after MacDowall gained the upper hand on the independent title contender. MacDowall will be looking to score his first outright points of the championship since Austria in the middle of May.
Norbert Michelisz, Rob Huff and Michel Nykjaer were separated by two hundredths of a second. Zengo Motorsport's Michelisz set the seventh fastest ahead of reigning champ and top SEAT Huff, but was then forced to apply to the race stewards for an engine change which was granted but at the cost of being sent to the back of the grid.
Independents trophy leader Nykjaer qualified in a relatively unspectacular ninth, but is one of three drivers to fall foul of the race stewards after the session. Along with Fernando Monje's and Hugo Valente's SEATs, Nykjaer's Chevy was found to have the driver's seat set back beyond the limits fixed by the safety prescriptions of the technical regulations and as a result all three had their qualifying times disallowed, setting them to the back of the grid for Sunday's races.
Gabriele Tarquini - like team mate Monteiro - struggled for any real grip and will not be happy with tenth but grabbed pole for race 2 courtesy of the top ten reverse grid system. Mehdi Bennani and Marc Basseng were welcome returnees to the top twelve, with Basseng in particular looking to have some luck and speed under his Munnich Motorsport SEAT as he sart from 12th.
'Flying Dutchman' Tom Coronel was the biggest name with the misfortune to fail to make the top twelve Q2 cut in his ROAL BMW, and he was deeply unhappy to miss out after being caught out by a late flier from Bennani which left him on the wrong side of the cut-off.
But the title of 'Unluckiest WTCC driver of 2013' still goes to Tom Boardman, whose return to the championship might be a great boost for Special Tuning Racing but is proving a deeply frustrating one to the Briton. He qualified last on the grid and left himself and his mechanics with headaches and questions of just how to improve the speed and mechanical reliability of the ageing SEAT Leon
At least Boardman will move forward four spots before the lights go out, courtesy of the engine changes and technical penalties.
by Dexter Fielding