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Jose Maria Lopez has extended his lead in the World Touring Car Championship standings to 46 points after picking up a relatively surprising pole position at the Moscow Raceway.

The Argentinian looked to be under pressure during the two free practice sessions prior to qualifying, but came good when it mattered just as main rival Yvan Muller began to struggle with set-up problems on his Citroen C-Elysee.

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With Muller failing to make it through to Q3, Lopez was free to take the top spot - and with its three bonus points -, the WTCC rookie two tenths quicker than fellow front row sitter Gabriele Tarquini and his Honda team-mate Tiago Monteiro.

Arguably the most competitive qualifying session of the season as Honda and Chevrolet slowly reel in their dominant Citroen rivals, Sebastien Loeb was fourth, with leading Chevrolet driver Tom Chilton in fifth place.

Muller starts a disappointing sixth, ahead of Mehdi Bennani and Norbert Michelisz, while Ma Qing Hua was a solid ninth on WTCC qualifying debut in the fourth Citroen entry. The result also assures him of a front row in the second race, with Hugo Valente on pole after qualifying in tenth.